PlanPhilly

L&I cleans up Germantown spite-blight property for the 11th time

For the neighbors in Germantown — and in the spirit of the season — this is the ongoing story of the "Nightmare on Knox Street."

Earlier this month, a crew from the Department of Licenses & Inspections cleaned and sealed up the late-19th century house at 5357 Knox St.

It was the 11th time the city performed such work on the house.

Never-ending battle

There have been more than 20 court hearings since 2008 involving the property and its owner, according to the next-door neighbor.

In the most recent legal proceeding, a municipal court judge last summer fined the owner more than $36,000 for building-code violations.

The recent case brought by the city against the homeowner, Anthony Byrne, began with inspections in 2009, when he was cited for a wide variety of property maintenance violations, said Rebecca Corcoran Swanson, communications and policy officer for L&I.

In 2011, the property was designated unsafe because of structural issues.

Because the house was added to the Philadelphia Register of Historic Places in 1966 — it was built in 1871 and owned by Francis and Thomas Cope, members of the prominent merchant family — alteration of the exterior of the house must be approved by the Philadelphia Historical Commission.

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About the author

Alan Jaffe, Contributor

Alan Jaffe has been a contributing writer for PlanPhilly since 2008, focusing on overlooked buidlings and historic preservation issues. He was a writer and editor in the newspaper industry for nearly 30 years, including eight at the Philadelphia Inquirer and nine at the South Jersey Courier-Post. He is currently the director of communications for the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society. He is also an antiques writer and collector and the author of “J. Chein & Co.: A Collector’s Guide to an American Toymaker.”

ajaffe@planphilly.com



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