Under the terms of a Commonwealth Court settlement agreement, a structure along Valley Brook Road in Peters Township is scheduled to be history by March.
Township council voted unanimously recently in favor of the agreement, which gives property owners Edward and Susan Courtney 60 days to demolish what remains of the distinctive off-white, arched-window building on St. Petersburg Center Lot 1.
The settlement, dated Jan. 13, comes after council ordered the demolition in October. The Courtneys appealed, but the following month, Judge Michael Lucas ruled council was within its rights.
On Jan. 10, township manager Paul Lauer conducted what he called an “email survey” among council members regarding their positions on settling.
“A majority of council responded affirmatively to that,” Lauer said. “What we need to do, though, tonight is affirm that authorization by official motion of council.”
The settlement requires the Courtneys, or a third party at their direction, to demolish the structure “down to one course of cement block, at their sole cost and expense.”
The agreement also states they are solely responsible for removing debris from the property, and the materials cannot be moved to anywhere else in the township “for the purpose of improperly and/or illegally storing such debris.”
Also according to the agreement, if the Courtneys undertake the demolition as stipulated, no costs related to the matter incurred by the township to date will be billed to the property owners. If they fail to comply, the township “is permitted to move forward with demolition activities on the property immediately without further legal action or additional relief from” the court.
At that point, the Courtneys would become responsible for all past and future costs of demolition and cleanup, with the township having the ability to place a lien on the property.
As part of the settlement, the Courtneys agree to waive any claims against the township “for the loss of the structure and/or use of the property, and any and all building materials located on the property as a result of demolition activities.”
According to court records, the couple purchased the commercial property at 214 Valley Brook Road in 1996 and submitted their first proposal to renovate the structure the following year. Various steps followed, but by 2006, township planning director Ed Zuk notified the Courtneys of what he called “numerous complaints” about stalled construction.
The financial crisis of 2008 resulted in a suspension of the Courtneys’ efforts, and Edward Courtney has experienced serious health problems, his wife has stated publicly.