Allen house gets reprieve
By Lynn R. Parks
The city of Seaford has withdrawn the contract to demolish the 19th-century Allen house in downtown.
The owner of the property has until June 15 to pay nearly $20,000 in back taxes and fees due on several properties that he owns, and 120 days after that to fix up the home's front porch so that it is no longer a safety hazard.
The city's condemnation of the structure, as well as its demolition order, still stand, however.
The city council voted at its Tuesday-night meeting to withdraw the contract. The vote was unanimous; councilwoman Leanne Phillips-Lowe was absent.
The city will pay a penalty for that withdrawal, two and a half percent of the bond the contractor had already obtained, or about $860.
The council's vote came after city manager Dolores Slatcher said that Bamdad Bahar, who in December entered into a conditional sales agreement with owners of record John C. Chanoski and Pamela A. Landon, had recorded that agreement with the county.
Bahar also had obtained insurance on the property, Slatcher said, and had submitted a work plan to the city's building official, Joshua Littleton.
As for back taxes and fees, Slatcher said that Bahar had made "a strong effort" to pay them. The accumulated bills are on all the properties that he owns throughout the city.
Bahar is the founder of the Service General franchise, which has a store in Seaford, and is the owner of Xergy, a manufacturing firm in the Seaford Industrial Park that makes high-efficiency compressors for cooling and refrigeration.
City code forbids issuing a building permit to someone who owes money to the city.
Tuesday night, Bahar told the council that he will be able to pay the remaining taxes and fees by the end of the first week in June.
He also said that the Bank of Delmarva had indicated that it was favorable to his request for a loan, $80,000 to buy the property outright and another $236,000 to fix up the house as well as other structures on the land. The Allen house property is made up of five city lots.
Step one in the process would be fixing up the house's front porch and pillars, he said. Following that, he wants to renovate one of the smaller structures on the property, to get it in a condition that it can be rented out.
After that, he will turn his attention to the interior of the Allen house. He admitted that getting the house in a livable condition will be a challenge.
Its electrical, heating and plumbing systems have to be replaced. At the same time, Bahar said, he wants to maintain the historical integrity of the house.
"It will take a month, maybe two, to figure out how to address some of the complexity there," he said.
The Allen house, at 114 High St., was built in 1865 by William Ross, governor of Delaware from 1851 to 1855 and builder of the Ross Mansion on the north side of town, for his son. The Ross family owned the High Street house until it was purchased by William and Addie Allen.
William, who died in 1946, was active in Democratic politics in Sussex County; he served in the state Senate from 1925 to 1929 and was a U.S. Congressman in the 75th Congress, 1937 to 1939.
In 1994, the Allen family sold the home to Chanoski and Landon. The condition of the house slowly deteriorated until on Sept. 30, 2011, it was condemned by the city. In April, the house was one of six structures in the city that were slated for demolition. The city council awarded a contract for $83,140 to Sunnyfield Contractors Inc., Dover; the work was to be completed by the end of June.
Citizens, in particular members of Seaford Tomorrow, whose mission it is to boost the city's downtown area, met with Bahar and with city officials in an attempt to save the house.
At its April 28 meeting, the city council agreed to hold off on the demolition until after its May 12 meeting.
Beatrice "Bebe" Allen Moore, whose parents, Robert and Beatrice Allen, lived in the house and who grew up there, said on Wednesday morning that she was "delighted" with the city council's vote.
"I am very hopeful that if Mr. Bahar sticks to his word, the house will be fixed up," she said.
Moore added that she is very grateful to the citizens who fought for the survival of the house. "They want it as a part of Seaford," she said. "They said that if that house is torn down, Seaford will no longer be Seaford."
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