SHARON House owners fail to show at hearing

Neighbors of the two houses testified to the deteriorated conditions of the structures.
SHARON, Pa. -- Thomas Merchant and Earl Schifino appealed a ruling by the city code office that two houses they own be razed, but they failed to show up for a hearing on the appeal.
The hearing before the Sharon Code of Appeals Board was set for 3 p.m. Wednesday, but Merchant and Schifino weren't there.
That didn't stop the city from pressing its case against the houses at 359 Fourth Ave. and 375 Watson St.
Atty. William Madden, city solicitor, and Frank Smeraglia, city code/zoning administrator, presented their findings to the board, and the board agreed the houses must come down.
Smeraglia described both structures as dilapidated and unfit for human habitation and presented pictures showing their state of deterioration.
It would not be economically feasible to try to restore either of them, he said.
Efforts to work with Merchant and Schifino in the past to fix them up have been unsuccessful, Smeraglia said.
Neighbors air views
Neighbors of the two houses also voiced their opinions at the hearing.
Beth Burdick of 365 Watson St. said the house at 375 Watson has been deteriorating for years. At one point, the chimney toppled, dropping bricks into her yard where her four children play, she told the board.
Frank Metz of 347 Fourth Ave. said the house at 359 Fourth Ave. is also in very bad shape. There are rats living there, the kitchen ceiling is collapsed, and the roof has been damaged by falling trees, he said.
The three-member board voted unanimously to back the code office decision to have the structures razed.
The city will pick up that expense, Smeraglia said, adding that placing a lien against the properties in hopes of recovering the cost of demolition if the land is ever sold would be a waste of time.
Both houses already have liens totaling more than $77,000 against them.
Merchant and Schifino, who spent a month in Mercer County Jail in mid-2000 for failing to make required improvements to properties they own in Sharon, can appeal the board's decision to Mercer County Common Pleas Court.

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