Controversy Grows Over Closing of Lynn Haven's Roberts Hall

By: Bryan Anderson Email
By: Bryan Anderson Email

Since 1911, the Independent Order of the Odd Fellows has been holding its monthly meetings in Lynn Haven's historic Roberts Hall. That 101 year tradition stopped Monday after city officials shut it down last month for safety violations.

"I think that's terrible. The citizens ought to speak out here in Lynn Haven," said group member Libby Tunnell.

Tunnell said the Odd Fellows spent $40,000 on building upgrades and a 2010 letter from a structural engineer appears to validate that claim. In it, structural engineer William Gaddie said quote "Everything that was accomplished is in full compliance." But for some reason city commissioners apparently disregarded that notice and instead closed the building.

"When history and heritage butt up to current uses and codes, there we have our differences," said Lynn Haven City Commissioner Joseph Ashbrook.

Instead city officials sent a letter of their own to the Odd Fellows listing a handful of structural concerns. They're also requiring the group to buy a certificate of occupancy for an estimated $20,000 to $25,000.

"I think it's blackmailing really," said Tunnell.

The Odd Fellows maintain the building is safe and said they can't afford the cost of the occupancy permit.

"We need to get back in our building. That's just all there is to it," said Tunnell.

Last month, Lynn Haven Mayor Walter Kelley appointed a group of six city employees and Odd Fellow members to look at the issue. They'll update the commissioners at Tuesday's commission meeting.

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