By LAUREN ZEUGNER
As StaceyPageOnline.com reported over the weekend, Ian Rolland, receiver for Oakwood, filed a notice in Kosciusko Superior Court I saying Buckingham Companies LLC was formally terminating the purchase agreement for the Oakwood property in Syracuse.
In a letter from Andrew Klineman, general counsel for Buckingham, it states, “In light of several still unresolved contingencies and due diligence matters, it is unlikely the buyer will be able to close this transaction as per terms of the agreement.”
In a phone interview, Rolland said he was still optimistic he could find a buyer for the property. He said he understood why Buckingham chose to withdraw from the agreement.
“I think they’re tired of all the controversy,” he said. “They put a lot of money into it without a lot of return, except a lot of damage to their personal and professional reputations. Things have to change, if any buyer comes in, they have to be reassured their business interests, which means making some money on the deal and restaurant, taking Oakwood to a more modern facility.”
Already, several parties interested in the property have come forward. Rolland said the thrust of a status conference with Kosciusko Superior Court Judge Duane Huffer set for Friday, May 18, will be how to find a new buyer.
However, a bigger issue is Rolland doesn’t have the funds to see this through. He said he would have to depend on people trusting him they will be paid. “There are just a number of problems because we didn’t get this closed. There are going to be huge consequences – it’s not a pretty picture,” he said.
Mark Knecht, president of the Oakwood Property Owners Association, stated in an email, “Oakwood Park property owners have mixed feelings regarding the decision (Buckingham pulling out). On the one hand, we want the park to be vibrant and enjoyed as a community resource, don’t forget, with annexation, we are now part of the town, so it truly is a community resource.
“On the other hand, many felt that the planned density was excessive. Oakwood is an incredible park, consisting of green spaces, magnificent oak trees and one of the best swimming beaches on Wawasee.
“Oakwood residents welcome change, but we pray that the green spaces, spiritual and historical aspects will be respected and retained by whoever becomes our new neighbor and custodian of this wonderful Syracuse and Wawasee community resource.”
As to what may be coming next, Knecht said, “We are looking forward to Ian pursuing a new plan. His efforts have been tireless and the work far beyond his initial expectations.”
Others in the community have mixed feelings about Buckingham pulling out of purchasing the Oakwood property.
Syracuse Town Manager Henry DeJulia stated, “It is with great disappointment Buckingham has decided against purchasing Oakwood. This project had the makings of being an outstanding economic development project as well as a destination place for the Syracuse community.
“As a first rate developer, Buckingham Co. would have provided the Syracuse community with a high end quality hotel as well as community entertainment. New jobs would have been created, along with leveraging the money spent in Oakwood.”
Tammy Cotton, executive director of the Syracuse-Wawasee Chamber of Commerce said she “ was very disappointed and yet hopeful somebody else will come along, a developer and Oakwood could reopen as a hotel.”
John Holdeman, president of the Wawasee Area Conservancy Foundation, was surprised to learn Buckingham had pulled out of the purchase agreement. In a phone interview, he said he was expecting another proposal from Buckingham and Rolland.
Several proposals, at least four, have been going back and forth between the WACF and Buckingham for the last six months.
“We hope to see the Oakwood property revitalized,” he said. He explained one unanswered question was why Buckingham wanted or felt it needed such a large number of piers.
“That question was never answered,” Holdeman said. “This area of the lake is very, very sensitive. It’s an eco zone. We understand there are other interested parties and we are ready and willing to help them. And I think we can help them in many ways.”
Holdeman said he was sorry a compromise could not be worked out “but sometimes negotiations and proposals don’t get accomplished.”