Bunting House Demo. Decision Due This Week—Arguments Made

Judge to rule this week on potential injunction against demolition.

A Motions Court judge will rule within the week on whether or not to issue an injunction against the Bunting House demolition in Roxborough. 

Attorneys for a coalition of civic associations and property owners at 5901 Ridge Ave. argued Monday before Judge Idee Fox on if a stay of demolition should occur at the stately property. 

The ruling will come by week's end, she said, and no demolition can occur before then.

The legal question before Fox is whether she should order an injunction against demolition while the Department of Licenses and Inspections and Zoning Board of Adjustment can rule on an appeal. If she rules in the neighborhood groups' favor, she may require a bond to be posted—which she indicated Monday she would favor. 

The civic associations allege that the city erred in issuing permits to the Giovannones for demolition, because that use, they say, a vacant lot isn't specifically an allowable use.

Frank and Anthony Giovannone purchased, received permits and seek to demolish 5901-09 Ridge Ave. because they say the older buildings' conditions render them "functionally obsolete," Frank testified.

"We looked at this as an opportunity to cleanup a corner of a hodgepodge of buildings," Frank said Monday, adding the developers attempted to recruit McDonalds, KFC, Taco Bell and others. "None of them want to go into this building as it is."

He submitted a report saying ADA, fire and building code violations pervade the structure and break-ins make the vacant buildings unsafe to the neighborhood. 
"If someone gets into a building, starts a fire over the winter, we could have a tragedy on our hands," he said. 

The Giovannones are second-generation Roxborough residents who testified that they have preserved historical buildings before and look to create jobs and spur commerce on a section of Ridge Avenue. 

Fox directly asked Frank Giovannone if, while growing up in Roxborough, he ever considered the Bunting House noteworthy. 

"No. There's a million of them up and down Ridge Avenue," he said. 

Hal Schirmer, who represents the Central Roxborough Civic Association and other groups, contends previous plans by past owners demonstrate that development can occur on-site while preserving the .

Additionally, Schirmer referenced rental licenses the city granted in March, which he said indicates no such problems. 

"If the buildings have become unstable, it's because they have sat vacant, allowing them to deteriorate," Schirmer said.

He has argued before that the citizens should have the opportunity to appeal within city's agencies and that demolition prior to that violates their chance.

Carl Primavera, the property owners' attorney, said a vacant lot is the absence of a use and his clients complied with the city's guidelines. 

"Counsel has found a clever argument, but one that doesn't stand the light of day," he said. "There's no way to save the building and there's no legal requirement to do."

The city's attorney, Andrew Ross, said, while the city has no opinion on whether the home gets destroyed or not, the property owners properly used the city's channels. 

"There is no such zoning use as vacant property, which is the only legal contention," he said. "We allow (citizens) to have vacant lots, as long as they are maintained."

Fox's decision is expected by Friday at latest.

Trebor December 12, 2012 at 03:42 AM
A new petition to save the Bunting House with a plan to oppose projects at 5901-5909 Ridge and boycott future business at that location if Giovannone Construction demolishes the historic Bunting House. https://www.change.org/petitions/giovannone-construction-stop-the-demolition-of-the-bunting-house
rich December 12, 2012 at 12:13 PM
i hope they build another Pecks,Dollar store,and popeye's chicken.
Kevin December 12, 2012 at 06:08 PM
LOL! Seriously @Jessica? Whole Foods and TJs in Roxbourogh? Maybe if they sold cigarettes and lottery tickets... I live very close to Bunting. I know the neighborhood pretty well. And while a fast food joint is not my top choice either, I have to face facts - A KFC/Popeyes/McD's will do insanely well at that location. The junk food demographic is already present; Septa stops, Hospital, Kendrick, AMY NW...
Kevin December 12, 2012 at 06:12 PM
I will be toasting champagne when IRAL gets the wrecking ball!
Debbie Thomas December 14, 2012 at 03:17 PM
"The junk food demographic is already present; Septa stops, Hospital, Kendrick, AMY NW..." Responding a little late because I just saw this. It's so true. You can add in the students at Roxborough H.S. too, unless they're included with the bus stop crowd.


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