Assumption Ruling Keeps Legal Wheels Turning

 

Church of the Assumption, in Callowhill | Photo: Bradley Maule

Church of the Assumption, in Callowhill | Photo: Bradley Maule

Updated 1:05 p.m.

The Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court has released its opinion on the case of Church of the Assumption, the vacant church near 11th and Spring Garden Streets, finding that the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas erred in not dismissing the case after the property was sold to a new owner last year.

The court found the case to be moot because neither the former owner, the non-profit Siloam Inc., nor the new owner, John Wei’s MJ Central Investment, intervened in the appeal that was brought to Commonwealth Court by the Callowhill Neighborhood Association.

The order vacating Common Pleas Judge Idee Fox’s October 2012 decision in favor of Siloam–which reinstated the Historical Commission’s demolition approval that had been reversed by the L&I Review Board–would appear to require Wei to file a new hardship application to demolish the church.

The court order remands the case to Common Pleas to dismiss Siloam’s appeal “without prejudice to the new owner’s right to seek a demolition permit for the Church,” Commonwealth Judge Rochelle S. Friedman wrote. The Court of Common Pleas must now implement and determine the ramifications of the higher court’s order.

Only Andrew Ross of the City’s Law Department filed a brief opposing the appeal and defending the Historical Commission’s initial hardship finding. Interestingly, both sides argued that the case was not moot, though for different reasons: CNA claimed the hardship ruling given to Siloam was made in error, while the City argued that the hardship ruling followed the land and was applicable to any owner.

Due to the finding of mootness, the court’s opinion does not touch on the merits of the hardship appeal itself. It also does not comment explicitly on the validity of the demolition permit that was granted to Wei in November 2012. Wei’s permit was blocked in February by a stay of demolition imposed by the L&I Review Board, which remains in effect as of today.

About the author

Christopher Mote covers stories of preservation, planning, zoning and development. He lives in South Philadelphia and has a special fondness for brownstone churches and mansard roofs.



4 Comments


  1. BLIR in staying the demolition, has put the city on the hook for any costs incurred int he event of a collapse on site that hurts people or neighborhood properties. The ruling did not dispute the need for demolishing the property, only passed the buck back to Common Pleas Court.

    THere was no need for the new owner to appeal as the previoius owner had filed the appeal once BLIR blocked his demolition permit.

    Firings are in order for those at BLIR as public safety has been needlessly compromised.

    • James-I’ve been foliowing the preservation battle over Assumption for a few years now on HCS and I must say your posts are always rather depressing…and at times, dont make a lot of sense. If the building was really in iminenent danger of collapse, BLIR would have acted upon their authority to demolish it themselves, as they are about to do with St. Bonaventure.

      • Alex

        The difference is no one objected to the demo of St. Bonaventure while the neighbors went ballistic over Assumption. People forget they do not own Assumption. Plenty of time was given to find buyers and no one showed up with a checkbook. If BLIR had good reasons, they should have shared them with the Inky.

        Even if it plays all over again, the neighbors will not be satisfied.

  2. That is good news. So glad to hear this. The church of the Assumption is the Rock of the neighborhood. Architecturally Gorgeous. Really makes a statement and is of Historical significance to the City of Philadelphia. That area within the city is going through a Renaissance. This church is a benefit and a blessing! Irreplaceable!!

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