Shining a light on Ormsby House issues

Was the threat to demolish the Ormsby House a bluff?

Plenty of people thought the move by Don Lehr and Al Fiegehen to apply for a permit to bring down the downtown Carson City landmark was mostly a ploy to get the city's attention and get some pesky inspectors off their backs.

Those skeptics doubted the owners ever would actually bring in the wrecking ball, especially after putting $8 million into the project.

But we're not so sure.

We believe the frustration was real -- not just with inspections and codes and regulations but with the continuing surprises the old hotel kept springing. Anybody who has remodeled an old house knows there will be more than meets the eye. The Ormsby House was proving that adage a hundred times over.

So we were prepared to take Lehr's and Fiegehen's word for it when they said they were fed up. And we think city leaders didn't have any choice but to do everything in their power to persuade the owners to change their minds.

That's what happened Friday when city officials and the owners emerged from a meeting with a vow by Lehr and Fiegehen to resume the project and promises from City Manager Linda Ritter to take a hard look at city codes and policies.

That raises the question of whether a big enough project can steamroll City Hall into letting some of its rules slide. That wouldn't surprise us either. In fact, there is plenty of evidence around Carson City that developers have sometimes had their way, not necessarily to the benefit of the public.

Those are the kinds of difficult calls we expect the folks at City Hall to make. Certainly, they can't compromise any immediate safety issues. But there are issues, like traffic flow onto the site from Carson Street, which should be open to discussion. And Carson City residents have much to lose if downtown's biggest hotel is destroyed.

Whatever the motive, Lehr and Fiegehen shined a bright spotlight on the Ormsby House project and their issues with city government. Carson City residents should be glad it's playing out this way rather than the alternative, which is in the dark.


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