On Friday, City Councilwoman Cherelle L. Parker showed up at an East Mount Airy house seeking to block its demolition, and the Department of Licenses and Inspections granted her wish. On Wednesday, about 15 residents of the neighborhood joined her at a Zoning Board of Adjustment meeting at which the developer's zoning permit was revoked.
Afterward, the angry developer, James Cardano of Jarrettown Development Inc. of Dresher, Montgomery County, said he would sue Parker.
"I did everything right, and she broke the law," Cardano said, asserting that Parker was "trying to strong-arm me through politics."
Parker first called L&I on July 13 to stop demolition of the property. The zoning board ruled Wednesday that Cardano could not demolish the home in the 8200 block of Rodney Street until further notice. At the hearing, L&I representatives said Cardano had violated L&I's policy for when it is notified of demolition postings.
More important than the date of demolition, Parker and neighborhood residents said, was that Cardano's proposal to replace the house with two twin houses would be out of character with the area.
"We want to support growth and development in our community," Parker said. "We want to work in conjunction with the development community so that we can grow our community and maintain the quality and character."
Paul Steinke, executive director of the Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia, said in an interview that East Mount Airy is "not a part of the city that has been subject to developer pressure. It could be an indication that this neighborhood is starting to feel that pressure."
Residents want Cardano to use brick or stone instead of vinyl siding on the houses he plans to build. Cardano said that would add about $30,000 in construction costs.
"We recognize that the developer has the right to demolish the property," said Gerry Sizemore, a longtime 50th Ward Democratic committeewoman. "Our concern is that when developers come into our neighborhood, their only concern is profit."
One of the twin houses Cardano plans to build is already listed for sale at $325,000, almost $150,000 more than the average home price in that zip code, according to data from Drexel University economist Kevin Gillen.