Anthony and Frank Giovannone, the owners of the Bunting House, in addition to the three blighted houses next door along Ridge Avenue, plan on tearing down all four properties–none of which is listed on the city’s Historic Register–and leaving them vacant for future redevelopment. They contend that they were unable to find a viable tenant for the 130-year-old house despite agreeing to hold off on demolition for 30 days to consider new offers. Some neighbors, though, questioned the owners’ intentions, alleging that several offers to purchase the house at its market value were never given full consideration.
Neighbors led by the Central Roxborough Civic Association formally requested injunctive relief after the 30-day pause had expired to allow time for their appeals to be taken up. Attorney Hal Schirmer presented the case that the city’s recently updated zoning code did not permit a vacant lot as an allowable use. He contended that the newness of the code merited a review before any demolition activity could commence.
However, Carl Primavera, the attorney for the Giovannones, countered that “vacant lot” was not a use in itself but rather the absence of a use. Deputy solicitor Andrew Ross, representing the Department of Licenses and Inspections, said that there had been no change in the code regarding allowable use and that the City had followed the correct procedure in issuing the permit to the Giovannones.
In denying the request for injunction, Common Pleas Judge Idee Fox appears to have decided that the new code did not present enough ambiguity to support Schirmer’s interpretation.
The neighbors’ appeals to the Board of L&I Review (concerning the demolition permit) and the Zoning Board of Adjustment (concerning acceptable use) are still pending. However, the developers are under no obligation to withhold from demolition activity before the appeals are heard.
The house takes its name from its first resident, Ross Richardson Bunting, a prominent Philadelphia physician. Bunting and his family are buried in the nearby cemetery of St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church.
A Court of Common Pleas judge, Idee Fox, who ruled previously to allow demolition of the Church of the Assumption, has denied a petition brought by the Central Roxborough Civic Association to stay the demolition permit for the Bunting House in Roxborough.