The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

Local News

April 20, 2014

Tear it down? Fix it up?

City wants house demolished; neighbor doesn’t

HERMITAGE — In 2007, Richard D. Givens bought a home at 831 Knobwood Drive in Hermitage for $245,000.

Today, the city of Hermitage is seeking the demolition of the now-vacant house, arguing the damage from water infiltration makes the structure not worth saving.

A neighbor said he would love to buy the property and fix up the place.

“It definitely has potential,” said Frank Fusco, a real estate developer and contractor. “I’ve redone a lot of homes.”

The city has filed a petition in Mercer County Common Pleas Court asking for an order that Givens; mortgage company Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems, Danville, Ill.; and/or Bank of New York, which now holds the mortgage, demolish the building.

Givens is believed to live in Hawaii.

City Manager Gary P. Hinkson did not say whether he expected the defendants to fail to respond to the suit, or if he expected the city ultimately would seek an order allowing it to demolish the house.

“It’s hard to say how anyone will respond at this point,” Hinkson said.

A hearing has been set for June 3 before Judge Thomas R. Dobson.

Fusco said he is disappointed the city is working for demolition, but added that his efforts to reach Givens have failed.

The four-bedroom house sits on a wooded lot with a swimming pool, picnic shelter, hot tub and fire pit. The home overlooks a “playground paradise,” according to an advertisement placed before Givens bought it.

“The layout was unique,” Fusco said, noting that the designer of all the homes in the neighborhood added something different to each one.

He cited the kitchen, windows, staircase to a loft and bridge to the pool as notable features.

“It was probably worth $300,000 in its heyday,” Fusco said. “It was beautiful at one time.”

The city has condemned the property, calling it a “substantial health hazard ... due to the accumulation of mold that covers every portion of the structure,” the city said in its petition.

A “serious” roof leak “allow(s) mushrooms and associated fungus and molds to grow throughout the floors of the structure,” the city said.

A structural engineer concluded the building is “not salvageable” due to water and mold, and that “the cost of remediation would far outweigh the cost of demolition and building a new structure,” the city said.

The swimming pool is a haven for mosquitoes and other pests and contributes to the cul-de-sac property posing a health hazard to neighboring property owners, the city said.

Fusco said he doesn’t necessarily agree that the fix-up cost would be higher than demolition, adding that it might be worth it to him to rebuild the home from the foundation up.

“It’s a very nice house,” he said. “If I get a chance at it, I’m ready.”

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