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Historic lodge's fate undecided

Pasco County commissioners granted a brief reprieve Tuesday night to a historic lodge in Moon Lake, delaying for a week a decision on whether to issue a demolition permit.

First they want to know if anything can be done _ without spending local taxpayers' money _ to persuade owner Richard Fedash to preserve the lodge, which was part of the former Moon Lake Gardens and Dude Ranch.

Possibilities include having him apply for a state historic preservation grant with assistance from local residents.

How much money might be available from the state and how interested the property owner might be in that option remain to be seen. In a telephone interview earlier Tuesday, Fedash said he would be willing to work with officials to try to preserve the lodge.

But he said his main interest is recouping some of the money he has put into the 26-acre property since he bought it nine years ago. Fedash said he has invested $740,000 in the property on Moon Lake Road.

From 1937 to 1942, the lodge was part of a 9,000-acre ranch that attracted wealthy sportsmen, and, according to legend, celebrities such as Joseph P. Kennedy, Gloria Swanson and Cornelius Vanderbilt. The rustic resort included exotic animals, botanical gardens, horse-riding trails, a dance hall and an illegal casino.

Today, the remaining 26 acres sit in an area of the county best known for its dilapidated roads.

Fedash recently offered to sell the land to the county for $375,000. But while commissioners stressed that they had no intention of spending any county money on it, they expressed interest in trying to see it preserved.

At one point, Commissioner Sylvia Young made a motion that the commission deny the demolition permit and see what happens. That could draw a lawsuit.