St. Petersburg Center Lot 1

Harry Funk/The Almanac

St. Petersburg Center Lot 1 as viewed from the opposite side of Valley Brook Road

Despite objections by the property owners, Peters Township Council has authorized the demolition of what remains at St. Petersburg Center Lot 1.

The building, one of two distinctively designed off-white structures near Valley Brook Road’s intersection with Route 19, had been undergoing some degree of dismantling by owners Edward and Susan Courtney. They have submitted plans to the township to convert the two-story building to a single story.

Council’s Oct. 14 action, though, signaled the exhausting of township officials’ patience regarding the Courtneys’ perceived lack of progress not only in making the building usable again, but addressing code violations dating back at least to 2008, according to information compiled by township staff members.

The low bidder for the demolition is Mullen Excavating Inc., at $23,809. According to township code, “the cost of such demolition and removal shall be charged against the real estate upon which the structure is located and shall be a lien upon such real estate.”

Township manager Paul Lauer said that the demolition could begin by the end of the week of Oct. 21.

On June 28, 2017, the township Construction Appeals Board granted a 60-day extension for the Courtneys to submit a completed building permit application. According to a letter sent to them five days later by attorney Thomas Lonich, representing the appeals board, if they would fail to act within that time frame, “it appears Peters Township may proceed with demolition as stated in previous notice by the township to Edward and Susan Courtney.”

The reference was to an April 2017 letter from building inspector Bill Muzzey that “advised of existing code violations and ordered the building to be demolished.”

That December, township solicitor John Smith sent a letter to the Courtneys advising: “The township plans to proceed with demolition of the building at 214 Valley Brook Road.” At several subsequent meetings, council discussed carrying out the demolition, authorizing the township to receive bids for the project.

In February 2019, the Peters Township Planning Commission approved plans for St. Petersburg Center Lot 1, subject to 12 conditions. Among them is that the state Department of Environmental Protection “issue the required Chapter 105 general permit to build within the 100-year flood plain and floodway prior to any site work beginning or issuance of the building permit.”

Susan Courtney said that she and her husband have been working with a DEP engineer on securing the applicable permit, but that the process has been protracted.

Meanwhile, Edward Courtney said he told council members in May that “in a couple of weeks I would have the bulk of that severe ugliness down, which, in fact, I did.”

“I had to pull off the project because we had some severe storm and wind damage to other properties I have,” he explained.

As for the current status:

“The roof is down, and I just need to get about four more dumpsters out of there,” he said. “So I’m not dragging my feet.”

The Courtneys also are working on a stormwater management plan for the site toward meeting another condition placed by the planning commission.

The other St. Petersburg Center building, part of which spans Brush Run, is in use as rental property. As Edward Courtney pointed out, they allow users of the Arrowhead Trail to park on-site.

“We go out of our way to make it a pretty nice place down there for the entire community,” he said. “We park hundreds of cars. I’ve never come up here and asked you guys for a dime.”

Multimedia Reporter

Staff writer Harry Funk, a professional journalist for three-plus decades, has been on the staff of The Almanac since 2015. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and master of business administration, both from Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

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