ONEONTA _ A third prospective buyer of the Oneonta Theatre said Monday he would like to keep the Oneonta landmark in its original configuration.

A site plan from a separate interested party for an amusement venue with electronic games was expected to be reviewed by the city Planning Commission on Wednesday, Mayor John Nader said last week.

But City Clerk James Koury said that unidentified, prospective buyer did not submit a complete site plan by a 9 a.m. deadline Monday and would not be on the agenda.

The Oneonta Theatre at 47 Chestnut St. dates to 1897 and Planning Commission Chairman Rob Robinson has said the property, owned by Terry Mattison, is close to foreclosure. County officials said Monday that nearly $40,000 in back taxes is owed on the theater, not including the 2009 tax bills.

A group dedicated to preserving the landmark, which once hosted vaudeville and entertainers, including humorist Will Rogers in 1927, has stepped up its own efforts to buy the theater. Friends of the Oneonta Theatre is opposed to an amusement venue on the site and is seeking donations to raise about $50,000 for a down payment. But the group, which gained nonprofit status last year, has only about $2,000, officials with the group said last week.

Doug Howard of Otego-based Lodestar Entertainment said Monday his company also made an offer. Lodestar Entertainment is a music video licensing and distribution company, Howard said.

"I'll admit that it is a low offer," Howard said, without disclosing a figure.

The 675-seat theater was purchased by Mattison in 2002 for $250,000. It is currently assessed at $350,000, according to the Otsego County Office of Real Property.

Howard said the party interested in turning the theater into an amusement venue is the primary offer on the table for Mattison.

But Howard said he is still interested in being an alternative if that deal falls through.

"The offer is in and my deposit check was cashed," he said.

Howard said he envisions the Oneonta Theatre as complimentary to the under-construction Foothills Performing Arts Center and said it could be a place to view retro and independent films.

"Change of usage is not part of my plan. My intention is to keep it as a theater. One does not get wealthy running a theater, but that does not mean entertainment can't pay for itself," Howard said. "The bigger picture is the theater itself."

But two major obstacles are the amount of back taxes owed on the property and the amount of renovation the building will need, Howard said.

The Otsego County Treasurer's Office said Monday Mattison owes $39,098.57 in back county, city and school taxes for 2007 and 2008. This figure does not include the 2009 tax bill, county officials said.

Taxes on the property are due at the time of closing on any real estate deal, the officials said.

Mattison did not immediately return a call for comment Monday.

Planning Commission Chairman Rob Robinson said he does not know who the primary offer is from, but said he heard through the interested party's real estate agent that they will continue to seek it.

Robinson would not disclose who that agent is.

"To do a site-plan review, you have to have a completed site plan. I refuse to do business on a half-proposal," Robinson said.

About $125,000 in Grant funding through the state's Small Cities program has been approved for the property, but the funds cannot be spent if there isn't a preservation project, Nader previously said.

Howard said he has met with members of the Friends of the Oneonta Theatre to discuss his intentions.

Patrice Macaluso, president of the group, said the discussions were preliminary and predicated on whatever happens with the primary offer. But she said Howard seemed interested in using the commercial space in the front of the building and renting the theater to the group, which has a business model for it.

"We would hope that whoever did buy it would a) not do any damage to it, and b) restore it," Macaluso said.

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