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Local News -

March 13, 2009

Oneonta Theatre buyer emerges

ONEONTA _ A prospective buyer wants to acquire the historic Oneonta Theatre, possibly to operate it as an amusement center, officials said Thursday.

Next week, the city Planning Commission is scheduled to consider the proposal, which is being opposed by a local group scrambling to raise about $50,000 as a down payment on the property.

The possible loss of a building with national historic status spotlights the need for the city to adopt a landmarks ordinance, the president of the Greater Oneonta Historical Society said.

The Friends of the Oneonta Theatre will send letters seeking donations within the next week, said Patrice Macaluso, president of the group. Members have been working on figuring out how to gain support and raise money.

``We just can't avoid that this is the time that this has to happen,'' Macaluso said.

The factor that makes the theater restorable is that alterations haven't been made inside, she said.

The Oneonta Theatre at 47 Chestnut St. was built in 1897 and hosted vaudeville acts, movies and other performances. The property is listed on the state and national registers of historic places. Though it no longer shows first-run movies on a regular schedule, the theater presents musicians and other performers and periodically shows films.

Otsego County Real Property Tax Service records online said the property, owned by Terry Mattison, is assessed at $350,000 and was purchased in 2002 for $250,000.

Mattison said he had no comment Thursday.

``There is an offer to buy the property,'' Oneonta Mayor John Nader said Thursday.

A site plan will be reviewed at the Planning Commission meeting in City Hall at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Nader said, and the commission will determine if a variance is needed for the proposed use.

Nader said he didn't know who the potential buyer is and hadn't seen the site plans, but he had heard the intended use was as an amusement venue with electronic games. Details of the site plans weren't available Thursday night, he said. Though the city Code Enforcement Office has determined a variance isn't needed, he said.

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