15 Sep 2014
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Petition Created to Halt Bunting House Demolition

Grassroots effort attempts to stall leveling of 5901 Ridge Ave.

Petition Created to Halt Bunting House Demolition Petition Created to Halt Bunting House Demolition

In an effort to preserve a historical Roxborough Victorian home, residents created an online petition aimed at changing a developer's mind or persuading a judge.

Residents have rallied around the Bunting House at 5901 Ridge Ave., which has received city permission for demolition after Sept. 27. In addition to contacting city, state and neighborhood officials,  residents launched an online petition aimed at persuading Anthony and Frank Giovannone to switch plans and not turn the Victorian home into a vacant lot.

Since Michele Greenlee, a former tenant who talked to Patch Thursday, created the Change.org page, more than 265 supporters digitally signed the petition.

Dr. Ross Bunting served as the property's namesake for his work as a trustee of the Roxborough Home for Indigent Women, according to  The Roxborough Review. The home is believed to have been constructed in the 1880s, and has served many roles, most recently served as the offices for Erb Law Firm and rental apartments. 

Greenlee's fiance, Mitchell Karp, and other tenants, including the Erb Law Firm, moved out of the property over the summer, telling Patch they thought a renovation was scheduled.

However, Giovannone Construction Inc. received demolition permits from the Department of License and Inspections. Although a request for comment has not been returned, the company told Joshua Cohen, staff member for Councilman Curtis Jones, Jr., that the building is structurally unsound and the company lacks the funds to fix it up. Only plans for a vacant lot have been shared.

After neighbors learned the news, they've encouraged other residents to reach out to Jones, state Rep. Pam DeLissio, state Sen. Shirley Kitchen, the Roxborough Development Corporation and the Central Roxborough Civic Association. 

CRCA President Ed Hothman said Sunday he backed the neighbors.

"The whole community seems to be against the demolition of this building.  I sent an email to the owner letting him know.  I also contacted the councilman's office," he said.

Roxborough Development Corporation Executive Director Bernard Guet declined to comment Monday, as ongoing talks were underway. He promised to followup on Tuesday.

Cohen, who previously was working with the city to determine if an court injunction was possible, similarly was dealing with the issue Monday.

Additionally, residents retained attorney Hal Schirmer, who also represents the Wissahickon Interested Citizens Association and the ManayunkNeighborhood Council.

Resident Jeff Allegretti, who said Schirmer's legal advice was sought, said the neighbors planned to: appeal the demo permits to the L & I Board of License Issuance Review and request a stay of action pending appeal; follow up with the Philadelphia Zoning Board of Adjustment for "appeals of the zoning and use permits and the failure to submit the plan for" registered community organization review; and take court action, if necessary.

On Sunday, Schirmer said in an email he wouldn't discuss his specific plan but spoke out against the demolition plan.

"This demolition is vigorously opposed by all of the relevant RCOs. The only possible reason for tearing down all of the existing buildings to create one huge vacant lot," he wrote. "Any project large enough to use the huge vacant lot will need to be reviewed by the RCOs who opposed demolition in the first place. Seems short sighted to insult the people who you want to review your project."

To sign the petition, click here.

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