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Residences and residents wasting Ridley Park resouces

At Ridley Park's April Borough Council meeting I spoke before council about two of our prized Ridley Park properties that are going to pot; 100 Swarthmore Avenue and the Hippie House at 312 Swarthmore.  All of the attention has been on 611 Swarthmore over the last several months; and that's where it should be. That property's been a disgrace to RP for decades, just like 100 Swarthmore and the Hippie House.

The process of a governmental body forcing a land owner to clean up their property is like a sculptor using a little chisel on a rough block of tough stone; it's slow going and it takes a lot of pounding away at the stone before the sculptor makes a little difference. The trouble is, pounding away by my government is cost me money, taking away my government's resources and frustrating my elected officials. I for one don't want perturbed politicians running my Borough and wasting my money.

I see it that the property owner(s) of 611 Swarthmore, 100 Swarthmore Avenue, and the Hippie house are straight out wasting my tax dollars, disgracing my community, and distracting my elected officials from matters that need their attention that are much more important.

Council Member Murtha is the latest Council Member to have a bee in their bonnet about 611 Swarthmore and her request for a Council vote to step-up the pursuit of 611 Swarthmore is the right step in the right direction. Hopefully with guidance from solicitor Jack Whelan, Council Member Murtha and Borough Council will create an Ordinance that will create a sufficient mechanism to enforce derelict property owners and create a way to recover the financial resources and interest for the man-power and fee's the Borough expends on enforcement.

I spend enough money, resources and man power already to keep my property within the limits of the law and so do the greatest majority of Ridley Park residents. Beautiful homes, clean lawns and floral landscaped abound in Ridley Park and I see no reason why my tax dollars have to be displaced to teach somebody how to have some common civic pride.

Over time the persistence of the sculptor and their skill with the chisel can transform the toughest stone into the sculptor's vision. 100 Swarthmore Avenue and the Hippie House at 312 Swarthmore must be added to the Borough's list of properties needing transformation; they are a disgrace to Ridley Park, they waste our tax dollars and they lower our property values. Let's continue our efforts to do something about it.


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Comment by tina hayes on April 30, 2013 at 9:21am

my name is tina hayes and i questioned whose property it was at 100 swarthmore avenue,this is a beautiful house and it is historical my boyfreind is a cntractor and i do interior design,we would love the opertunity to rehab this home for the community if mr. whelan or any other council person would please email me or call me to discuss this we would appreciate it very much.My email is  ttandjb03208@gmail.com and my pho9ne is 484-885-0988 thankyou,tina hayes

Comment by Howard McCoy on May 5, 2011 at 8:48am

I continued the discussion about Community Nuisance Properties at Tuesday Night's Borough Council Workshop and I continued with several of the excellent points in this blog discussion contributed by our concerned community...

by Paula: "But we do have to understand that maybe these people do not have the resources or the money to improve. Maybe there is something that the town can put together to help home owners improve their properties, maybe people can donate time to help each other out?"

by Jim McGowan: "If a property becomes a health or safety hazard then I'm certain that there are already laws or ordinances to address that. But unless there are violations of law I don’t understand why anyone thinks that "action" is necessary."

Right now there are no ordinances, or health and safety code addressing vacant homes in Ridley Park that require a homeowner to act in the interests of the Borough's safety.  There are also no ordinances protecting the value of the homes in the Historic District. The reason the home at 32 West Sellers was demolished after the fire was because it was under-insured because the property failed to obtain "replacement value" insurance. Instead, the owner insured the property at the handyman's special price he paid for it and when it burned there was only enough money in the insurance to level-it. 

If there was an accidental fire, or a lightening strike today at 100 Swarthmore, 312 Swarthmore or 611 Swarthmore would these properties be replaced or demolished?  What would replace them? There is no way to determine if 100 Swarthmore, 312 Swarthmore or 611 Swarthmore are insured properties with sufficient insurance.

I'm asking myself, after a theoretical fire at 100 Swarthmore will there be one old historic brown stone building standing on this property, three duplex homes, or apartments like the ones across the street?  And after the same theoretical lightening strike at 312 Swarthmore will that building be rebuilt to the consistency of the entire neighborhood, or will there be a modern apartment building?

I'm finding it hard to believe the Borough could require everyone in the Historic District to have sufficient "replacement value" insurance for the cost of their homes, but I am finding it very credible that new home owners in the Historic District would be required to provide proof of sufficient "replacement-value" insurance. I am also find it very credible that Ridley Park needs to adopt an abandon property ordinace that has some teeth in it.

As the hole in Ridley Township's donuts our community's history, buildings and architecture are our only tax base value. Among the surrounding communities like Swarthmore, Eddystone, Prospect Park, Morton, and Norwood, where do we went Ridley Park to stand? 

I'm understanding that the Borough has no effective means to remedy Nuisance Properties in a timely manner.  Currently, the alternatives are to ask the owner to comply, issue citations, wangle through the judicial system or the Property Maintenance Committee, or use the Borough's funds to remedy the situation.

"The issue about "community's nuisance properties" in Ridley Park is complicated and frustrating for all sides" and I believe a solution rests with more discussion and greater involvement by RPOL members and the residents of Ridley Park.  Our RPOL community can continue the conversation, Borough Council can decide if a special committee of resident should evaluate the situation and make recommendations, and we can move forward with helpful solutions that can save our historic properties from "a golden match" or decay. Who knows, this may be another project for our community like the clean-up at The Lake this weekend. 

Comment by Howard McCoy on April 27, 2011 at 7:18pm

The issue about "community's nuisance properties" in Ridley Park is complicated and frustrating for all sides. On the one hand the Borough is responsible for enforcing the rules we all want to live by and on the other hand we citizens want to exercise all of our Constitutional rights to due process and to appeal, appeal, appeal, and to appeal some more until there's no more appealing possible; it's the American way and we're both blessed and cursed for having it that way.

The Borough uses the International Property Maintenance Code (IPMC) and the Borough's Zoning Code to try and control out of bounds property owners; and naturally both have different appeals processes.

The IPMC allows the property owner to appeal a property maintenance code violation before a full assembly of the Property Maintenance committee. Then to appeal that decision again to a committee made up of Borough Council members, then to again-again appeal that decision to the complete assembly of Borough Council members, and then to again-again-again appeal that decision to the judicial system in Media.  That's a long process to go through against a resident who doesn't want to cut their tall grass, but the fact remains; if I don't cut the grass on my property this entire summer, the greatest likelihood is I can delay all of the Borough's efforts in court until the first snow.

The appeal process of the Borough's Zoning code is more direct. Zoning code violations are heard at the District Justice level and all appeals are moved to Media. In Media, the appeal process may override the Borough's original decision, ask the property owner to show compliance, or return the matter to Ridley Park for resolution.

Code and Zoning enforcement are costly items that our tiny Borough has to afford in order to keep unsafe building practices and property owners want to do what ever they want. Council Member Samantha Snow's resident trash and recycle committee was certainly successful handling a difficult problem and coming up with successful results. Maybe a similar resident based committee could further investigate the best mechanism for Ridley Park's community's nuisance properties."  Somehow there should be a solution from a great community like Ridley Park.  What does everyone else think?

Comment by Parker Maven on April 27, 2011 at 8:59am
With you on this Paula!!!  Jim....why do you think residents are concerned about other peoples properties, have you not opened your eyes lately and looked at some the homes and apartment buildings in RP??  I'm so tired of hearing about families not having extra funds to continue up keep.  This is a crock of an excuse!  Paint is cheap, cleaning up your yard and bagging debris costs nothing, picking up trash and rotted bldg material is simply a labor of pride and that's what it is about....pride of ownership, clean up or move out!
Comment by Parker Maven on April 27, 2011 at 8:51am

Kudo's to you Howard!!!!  I'm really disgusted with these properties and many others here in Ridley Park.  Ridley Park is a unique community and used to be beautiful.  What's happened?  What standards is our local government requiring these people to meet?  I've been appalled by the condition of these historical properties and many others.  I've been thinking we should keep up this  blog and residents can post their neighbors properties (anonymously of course) that are in disrepair or just unkept.  I believe this can motivate residents to maintain their properties.  We, as residents, have invested in our homes and those of us who take pride in our properties need to motivate others to do the same or sell and move out!! 

Comment by Linda Shockley on April 22, 2011 at 11:32pm


Thing is, this isn't an either/or situation. Old does not have to mean "dumpy" and new does not necessarily mean "nice".  Historical houses can and have been renovated to look quite nice, there's a house on E. Ridley that was featured here last year on this site after the renovator won awards.  Just removing all the old trees and out-of-control ivy would be an improvement, we would actually see these houses and it wouldn't be so dark.  Knocking a house down may seem like the easy way, but that doesn't make it right.

Comment by Richard A Janes on April 21, 2011 at 5:26pm
I could not agree with you more. Those are only two of this man's property and I have complained about him to the boro for years.  They are suddenly all hot and bothered about Harper's which has been like that for at least 10 years.  this other "Slum" landlord has let his vast properties languish for at least as long. I even asked them why they couldn't act and asked them if they could not do anything now could we please pass a law to keep future properties from going derelict. Richard Janes
Comment by Linda Shockley on April 21, 2011 at 4:11pm

Jim McGowan,

You ask what are you missing. Well, you're missing the fact that the properties in question are in violation of code. The grounds are overrun with vegetation. They are out of code on that and are falling apart. Have you gone over & looked at the properties at 100 & 312 Swarthmore? If not, I suggest you do.  Where do you get the idea that this has anything to do with the color of trim on people's houses? Have you read this blog?

Comment by Howard McCoy on April 21, 2011 at 4:06pm

Ken, I'm behind you that property owners have rights, due process, different opinions, and the right to appeal the decisions that the Borough hands down. It's just that I'm bemused as to why this cat and mouse game has been allowed to go on for decades. One golden match would make 611, 312 and 100 Swarthmore Avenue uninhabitable forever and that would continue the tradition of bulldozing for parking lots in Ridley Park.  Tonight is the Zoning Hearing Board meeting about turning 32 West Sellers into a parking lot. The turreted mansion that once sat on that lot was damaged in a 2007 electrical fire.  The heat of the fire damaged the foundation and the house had to be torn-down rather than repaired.

I was told that Joe Yorke was at the chisel before Bob Berger but these properties didn't become abandon and uninhabited last week, last year, or this decade. I'm interested in hearing more about what's been going on and how "a home residence transforms into a community's nuisance property." in Ridley Park.

Comment by taco burrito on April 21, 2011 at 2:50pm
Abandoned buildings are the owner ignoring the problem and they only become worse as times goes on.  Vegetation gets seriously out of control, animals and rain damage the structure and eventually there is a point when a home residence transforms into a community's nuisance property.
Code enforcement is the most common method of dealing with this however maybe Ridley Park lacks the sufficient property maintenance code to fix the problem.

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