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Commonwealth Court rules Assumption case moot, orders Common Pleas to dismiss Siloam appeal

TIMELINE

Mar. 2006: Siloam purchases Church of the Assumption and three attached properties from the Archdiocese of Philadelphia for $800,000.

May 2009: Historical Commission adds Church of the Assumption to the historic register.

July 2009: L&I cites the property for being “deteriorated and in danger of collapse,” and instructs the owner to repair or demolish the property.

Aug. 2010: Siloam applies for a permit to demolish the church.

Sep. 2010: Historical Commission finds hardship approves demolition permit. Callowhill Neighborhood Association (CNA) appeals the Commission’s decision to the Board of L&I Review (BLIR).

May 2011: Board of L&I Review overturns Historical Commission, agreeing with CNA that the property was not marketed for enough time and that not all reuse possibilities were exhausted. Siloam appeals BLIR decision to Court of Common Pleas.

May 2012: Lawyers for CNA and Siloam argue before Court of Common Pleas.

July 2012: Siloam sells Church of the Assumption and related properties to Chinatown developer John Wei, for $1.12 million.

Oct. 2012: Judge Idee C. Fox reverses BLIR decision and affirms Historical Commission’s original finding of hardship. CNA appeals Judge Fox’s decision to Commonwealth Court.

Nov. 2012: John Wei pulls demolition permits for Church of the Assumption.

Dec. 2012: BLIR issues a temporary stay of demolition and asks Historical Commission for opinion.

Jan. 2013: Historical Commission unanimously votes that its original hardship finding was justified, and therefore the demolition permit was issued properly.

Feb. 2013: BLIR votes to uphold the stay of demolition pending Commonwealth Court review.

Oct. 2013: CNA and Historical Commission attorneys argue before Commonwealth Court.

The Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania has declared that the matter before the Court of Common Pleas in the demolition case of the Church of the Assumption was moot, remanded the case, and ordered Common Pleas to dismiss the former owner’s appeal.

It’s not clear what this means for the immediate future of the historic church.

In declaring the issue before the lower court moot, the Commonwealth Court did not weigh in on the more substantive question of whether keeping the building standing constitutes a hardship.

The Commonwealth Court ruling was issued “without prejudice to the new owner’s right to seek a demolition permit for the Church.”

The new owner, John Wei, already pulled a demolition permit for the church last year, but the Board of L&I Review issued a stay of demolition pending the Commonwealth Court review.

Read the Commonwealth Court’s ruling here.

More to come


About the author

Jared Brey, Zoning and development reporter

Jared Brey writes about development, zoning policy, and city government for PlanPhilly.com. He wasn't interested in being a reporter until halfway through a master's program in journalism at Temple University that he intended to parlay into an academic career. His work has appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer, Daily News, City Paper, Business Journal, and Metropolis. 

Jared grew up in Montgomery County and moved to Philadelphia in 2005. He has since lived in Brewerytown, the Italian Market, North Central, Bella Vista, and East Passyunk. He believes he will stay in South Philadelphia. Follow him on Twitter @jaredbrey, or send him tips at jbrey@planphilly.com.


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