Congratulations to the Kennett Square Borough Council for approving the appeal by Denise and Kevin Ciancia to tear down a dilapidated old garage at the rear of their building on South Broad Street.The Ciancias had twice before gone to the borough historical commission and were denied permission to do away with the eyesore and safety hazard.
On Monday, they and their lawyer, George Brutscher, apparently made the case at a special hearing, and, with the exception of a "no" vote by council member Jeff Darman, procured the go-ahead to proceed with the demolition.
In his testimony, Kevin Ciancia made three convincing points.
Through a series of photos and anecdotes, he first convinced his audience that the old garage presents a clear and present parking and driving danger. He said that he does not even let his wife drive out of the adjacent parking place by herself unless he is there to guide her.
He also described how water run off from Church Alley has undermined the foundation of the garage. The building has now been described as deteriorating by a structural engineer, he said. To make matters worse, it was later revealed at the hearing that to fix the building would cost between $86,000 and $166,000 - a burdensome sum for an old shed that the Ciancias have no use for.
Finally, Mr. Ciancia shocked the board with the announcement that he is unable to get any insurance for the building. That should be enough for any board or municipality to agree to demolition.
However, the Historical Commission, which has recently served the borough quite nicely by providing seminars on the care and feeding of old homes, opposed tearing it down.
Because, as Chairman Dan Maffei said, Kennett Square is known for its variety of old buildings. He said people come to the borough and appreciate its architecture because of that variety. To tear down an out building so near to the middle of town would deprive visitors of the chance to see that an example of that type of building.
One has to ask, however, how many people travel to Kennett Square to see old garages, especially when some of those garages are so unattractive, the owners would do the town a favor by tearing them down?
Council member John Thomas, admitted he loves old things including his house, but asked what significance an old shed built in the 1920s had for Kennett Square history.
The answer's probably "nothing."
It was likely thrown together to store some equipment or maybe a car. Aside from being old, the garage, which is now is disrepair, has no more significance than a garage that's built today.
The Historical Commission too often oversteps the bounds of logic and propriety by telling property owners what they can and can't do with their houses, buildings and sheds. This is one of those cases.
It puts owners in a position of choosing to do nothing to keep up their old structures, because the alternatives offered by the commission are impossibly expensive.
Kennett Square is a beautiful old town with lots of history including manufacturing, baseball, vintage architecture and Underground Railroad. That's what the Historical Commission members should occupy themselves with.
While they're at it, they can ride herd on the appearance of the old buildings that make the town quaint as well.
But they have to start distinguishing between old and historic. Otherwise, they defeat their own purpose by denying residents' property upgrades and placing expensive burdens on them.