New home for ECU chancellor creating controversy

The original plan was to make improvements and expand The Dail House. (Stephanie Brown, NewsChannel 12 photo)

The Dail House is traditionally where the chancellor at East Carolina University lives.

Right next to that is one of several vacant homes that ECU bought to demolish and expand the house and surroundings grounds. At least those were the original plans.

Now, residents and the historic preservationists are wondering what will happen with these empty houses now that they won't be demolished. A longtime resident of the aera said the original plan would have given the neighborhood a much-needed upgrade.

"We felt like the money that was going to be spent on the chancellor's house was really making a statement that they cared about this neighborhood and were supporting our neighborhood," said Hap Maxwell, president of the Tar River/University Neighborhood Association (TRUNA). "Now, it just kind of leaves us wondering, what's next?"

In a story we reported on earlier this week, the ECU Foundation is set to pay $1.3 million to put up chancellor Cecil Staton and his family in a 8,400 square foot house more than three miles from campus. They have traditionally lived in the Dail House but have been living in a townhouse since becoming chancellor 18 months ago.

The Board of Trustees tabbed member Bob Plybon to head a committee to do an analysis on what to do with the Dail House. The university had already bought surrounding properties in 2014 with the original intent of expanding upon the historic home.

Plybon said it was "apparent that the house without significant renovation was not suitable for a chancellor with a family and children."

In addition to housing the chancellor, the Dail house has served as a place to entertain potential donors -- something Plybon said that building was limited in for its usefulness.

We reached out to ECU officials to see what they plan to do with the five adjacent houses in question, which are currently boarded up and vacant. Spokesperson Jeannie Hutson said they advertised to relocate four of the properties but received no response. Meanwhile, they're in the midst of proposing to demolish them.

Ryan Webb, past chairman of the Historic Preservation Committee said since the homes were purchased in 2014, all they have been are eyesores.

"And they really haven't done much to it since they bought it," Webb said. "So it's been sitting there kind of decaying and obviously probably needs a lot more work now than it did when they first bought it."

Maxwell said members were present during the meetings about the original plan but found out about the new decision just two days ago when the story broke. Key leaders have spoken out against the decision as well. UNC Board of Governors Vice President Harry Smith told Pirate Radio on Wednesday the move to the 8,400 square foot home exudes "aristrocracy."

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