The delay stemmed first from the town's unsuccessful attempt to purchase the 223-year-old building, and then from an attempt to find a commercial buyer who would reopen the restaurant, planning and development Commissioner Frederick Ippolito said.
Now that a restaurateur, whom Ippolito said he could not name yet, has made an offer to buy the property, a resolution for the landmark designation will be on the town board agenda on May 15 or June 5.
Supervisor John Venditto said the building built by a prominent Quaker and believed to have been a stop on the Underground Railroad "has been an important part of the fabric and history of Jericho since it was built in the 1780s. From its original incarnation as the home of prominent local resident Valentine Hicks and his family to one of the best known restaurants on Long Island, the inn represents the very essence of Jericho. Landmarking the property will insure that this unique architectural and historical treasure will be preserved forever."
"I do look forward to whoever repurchases it reusing it in such a way that there will be a public benefit," he said. "I think a private company by all means" is the best purchaser.
Some preservationists and residents worried that if the town bought the building, it would not know what to do with it.
Alexandra Wolfe, Society for the Preservation of Long Island Antiquities preservation services director, said, "The town didn't have to own the building in order to landmark it. They are really not maintaining their historic buildings properly. Not all historic buildings should become museums."
She said it's important that any new commercial owner do a historically sensitive restoration by experts with experience in this type of work. "You can't put a drop ceiling in there."
Ippolito said Georgia-based Ciena Capital had foreclosed against building owner Rajiv Sharma. Ippolito said some of the delay on the landmarking stemmed from the bank having doubts about proceeding with a sale to the town if the building already had landmark status. He said the bank then looked to get additional funding from the mortgage holder to close the deal and the owner refused to participate.
Ippolito said, "I then was able to put together a deal with a major restaurateur," who also had questions about the impact of landmark designation. But Ippolito said he told him that the town was going to proceed with the designation one way or the other so the restaurateur made an offer to the bank with the idea of restoring the building and reopening it as a restaurant.