HERMITAGE Appeals court supports Stacey house demolition
Raymond Stacey said he and his mother are considering their options but aren't about to give up the fight.
By HAROLD GWIN
VINDICATOR SHARON BUREAU
HERMITAGE, Pa. -- A state appeals court has backed a ruling from Mercer County Common Pleas Court that demolition of Helen Stacey's East State Street house was the appropriate remedy for the dilapidated structure.
The Commonwealth Court issued its ruling last week, denying Stacey's appeal of a Nov. 6, 2000, court order by Judge Thomas Dobson of Mercer County Common Pleas Court that rejected her request for a permanent injunction to prevent the city from tearing down the house at 1560 E. State St.
"I'm not giving up," Raymond Stacey of Niles said Monday when asked if the appeals court ruling would end the legal fight. He said he and his mother, Helen, are considering their options.
Top court: The next step would be an appeal to Pennsylvania Supreme Court, if the Staceys pursue the case.
That wouldn't be automatic. The state's highest court could refuse to hear the case.
Raymond Stacey said he will definitely continue seeking a building permit to build a new house to the exact dimensions of the one torn down. He applied for the permit but hasn't been granted one yet.
The appeals court said it doesn't condone the city's haste in razing the structure -- Hermitage tore it down on Nov. 7, 2000, the day after the lower court ruling -- but it didn't declare the city's actions improper.
Ordered out: The city ordered Helen Stacey, now 92, and her husband, Andrew, to vacate the structure after a June 1997 rainstorm washed out part of a basement wall. Andrew Stacey has since died.
The city later declared the house unfit for human habitation and ordered that it undergo extensive repairs or be torn down.
The Staceys, with Raymond leading the charge, fought numerous legal battles with the city, claiming the brick house was structurally sound and not in need of extensive repairs.
Judge Dobson did issue a temporary injunction against the city Sept. 5, 2000, but later lifted the ban and denied Stacey's exceptions to that ruling Nov. 6, 2000.
The Commonwealth Court ruling rejected Mrs. Stacey's arguments that she was denied a hearing on the city's demolition notice, pointing out she failed to appeal that notice to the city board of appeals within the required 20-day time period.
Claim rejected: Furthermore, her claim that the city denied her an opportunity to make repairs or sell the property and to remove her personal effects before demolition was also rejected.
The city gave Mrs. Stacey notice in 1997 that the structure was in violation of city property maintenance regulations and evidence established by the city showed she was told in early August 2000 to remove personal items from the house, the court said.