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County says ‘bye’ to Barker House

Demolition begins on landmark home

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FORSYTH COUNTY, Ga. — The UFO-shaped house atop Sawnee Mountain will soon be no more. Crews began taking down the 40-year-old structure piece by piece last week.

What some residents considered a Forsyth County landmark, the Barker House, which resembled a spaceship or UFO, was judged unsafe by the county.

The Forsyth County Board of Commissioners discussed the fate of the home many times over the years, once considering whether it was possible to preserve it for recreation or educational purposes.

The county gave the Barker family six months in September 2016 to come up with a solution to salvage the structure, but the family was unable to work out a viable option. They requested instead something be built in its place or left to honor its builder, the late Jim Barker.

In 2003, the county purchased the house and its 12.8 acres for $1.8 million. The purchase was partially paid for through a Georgia Greenspace Grant Award for $758,000. Another $1 million was financed through the local option sales tax.

Since then, the county has had other use and feasibility studies performed in 2003, 2004, 2005, 2008 and 2010.

Those studies’ findings included:

The occupancy is limited to 49 people.

The structure requires construction of additional exterior elevator and stairwell, modification of handrails, installation of fire alarm system and replacement of roof and HVAC, plumbing and electrical system overhaul.

The building required an Americans with Disability Act-compliant elevator.

In 2010, a study done by the county Parks and Recreation Department found the building could be used for tours, programs and classes, small events and weddings. However, such an enterprise would cost roughly $1.8 million in renovation and would have operating expenses of $80,000 annually. The department concluded annual revenue would run between $40,000 and $80,000.

From Jan. 1, 2015 to Aug. 26, 2016, the property had been home to 83 total emergency and nonemergency calls, including 23 audible alarms, 14 suspicious vehicles, nine criminal damages, four criminal trespasses and one fire call.

While some have argued the home should be redone and open to visitors, the study showed that would likely not be feasible.

The study found current public safety concerns including vandalism, all windows broken but secured with plywood and frequency of forced entry.

It is estimated the county would have to provide labor and materials including 10 to 20 man-hours weekly, sheriff’s office patrols and public facilities routine visits and inspections if the county were to keep the building intact.

In addition, the study found trespassers rappelled through skylights risking bodily harm. There were “generally unsafe conditions” and substantial evidence of illegal activity in the house.


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