Several local residents determined to preserve a pink mansion expressed their frustrations Monday night to Sewickley Council over plans to demolish the structure and build a new youth fellowship and education center on the site.
Joe Zemba, speaking on behalf of the Sewickley Neighborhoods Association, an advisory group of residents with concerns about local zoning issues, read a letter calling on the Presbyterian Church, Sewickley to preserve the pink house at 202 Beaver St. and to partner up in a dialogue.
Zemba called the church a "200-year-old legacy" that is "architecturally and historically significant."
Controversy over the church's plans to raze the Coyle property, built in the mid-1800s, has produced frustration and several petitions from community members who want to save the home.
Matt Cooper, a Thorn Street resident and church member, however, told council there has been a lot of misinformation about the plans and offered the public a timeline of how the church came to purchase the property starting with price negotiations in November up until the closing on March 13.
Immediately following last week's closing, the church filed a conditional use application, reverse subdivision and demolition permit, heightening concerns that the church intended to push forward with razing the house.
Cooper said the Coyle family, who sold the home to the church, is now salvaging materials from the structure as part of the purchase agreement.
Melissa Farlow, who lives directly behind the house, said it breaks her heart to see the home salvaged, though she understands the Coyle family has the right. What’s troubling, she said, is that many neighbors didn’t know about the plans and she doesn’t feel the neighbors ever had a voice in the matter. She said the hope has been to open up a discussion.
“We’ve been trying to talk with the church openly, to work with them because there are so many people who want to restore this, and we’d hoped they would be able to hold off taking all the beautiful wood out of there and salvaging it so that there would be something left more than just a pink shell,” she said.
Borough Manager Kevin Flannery said neighbors do have a voice. He said the application the church submitted would be reviewed by the planning commission next month. A hearing will be scheduled in May and neighbors will receive notice of the meeting. The church has to satisfy the planning commission and council before plans are approved.
“I would say to any citizens, you’re not out of it yet,” Flannery said.
Flannery said the planning commission hearing for the application won’t stop demolition.
Peter Floyd, a Sewickley Valley Historical Society board member, asked about the appeal process on a demolition permit.
Flannery said any permit issued can be appealed within 30 days to the zoning hearing board, but if the outcome isn’t agreeable, the matter would move into the courts. The demolition permit had not yet been issued as of Monday.
Flannery reminded the public that the Coyle house has never been located in a historic district nor has it carried a historic designation.
“It’s not a historic property,” Flannery said. “Anyone could have bought it, anyone could have demolished it.”
Cooper said the house was listed for sale and that interested buyers toured the property, including the Sewickley Valley Historical Society, though the society did not pursue a purchase, he said.
Floyd said the historical society discussed the Coyle property a month ago, but clearly didn’t have $1 million to purchase the house. He said the group voted this month to send a letter to the church requesting preservation through adaptive reuse.
“We just kind of feel this came awful fast” Floyd said.