Darby to hold hearing on demolishing 250-year-old house

Posted: July 21, 2014

The 250-year-old Woodmount house is a local treasure situated on a lot once owned by William Penn, according to a historical group. But Darby Borough says it is also a local hazard, and it has to go.

On Monday evening the Delaware County borough's council is scheduled to hold a public hearing on whether to grant a demolition permit to raze the building at 715 Darby Terrace.

"The mind-set that a vacant lot is better than a functioning building," said John Haigis, head of the Darby Borough historical commission, "I'm not sure that's in the best interest of Darby."

Near the corner of Whitely and Darby Terraces, the large brick structure is located on a lot once sold to William Wood, an early Darby settler, by Pennsylvania founder William Penn, Haigis said.

But, Darby Mayor Helen Thomas said, the building, which has been abandoned for more than 20 years, stands as "a hazard in the neighborhood."

Children run through it. Officials keep having to board it up. Soon, Thomas said, someone is going to get hurt.

"The building is becoming a junk site for Darby residents," said Davoud Baravordeh, a shareholder of DB Enterprises, the company that owns Woodmount.

"Whenever they have something to discard," Baravordeh said, "they dump it onto that property."

Baravordeh asked for the demolition permit last month.

He wanted to donate the building to the borough, he said, but officials told him the borough did not have the money to pay for the demolition, which will cost DB Enterprises between $30,000 and $40,000.

"Personally, I don't like to demolish it," Baravordeh said. "But we have no choice."

The property, he said, is in disrepair.

Baravordeh has let the property fall into this state, Haigis said, by not mowing the grass or picking up trash.

Haigis said he, as well as architects, had been inside the building, and saw no structural damage.

In a historical commission flier opposing the demolition, architect Alvin Holm described the building as "a commanding presence and a gracious introduction to an attractive little neighborhood to which it appears as a centerpiece."

With its rich history, Haigis said, the building could be restored and turned into apartments, a bed-and-breakfast, or a day care.

"The building could be used for a lot of things if someone buys it," Thomas said. "But no one wants it."

The mayor said she had not been able to verify the property's history through borough archives.

Haigis and Baravordeh are in talks about a possible purchase of the property. Baravordeh has asked $75,000 for Woodmount, according to e-mails between Haigis and Baravordeh.

In 2000, after the most recent county-wide reassessment, the county valued the property at $159,500, according to property records.

Haigis believes a buyer can be found. But he added that it could take a while and that the borough seems to be in an unnecessary rush to demolish it.

Monday's public hearing is scheduled for 6 p.m. at the borough hall, Haggish said.

Baravordeh said he plans to donate the property to the borough or another owner after demolition - if it is approved.

"If it has to go," Mayor Thomas said, "it has to go."


610-313-8105 @ErinMcPSU

comments powered by Disqus