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Property owner’s plans requested

By Jaime McLeod
For the Tribune-Review
Sunday, May 26, 2002

The owner of 10 abandoned buildings in the 100 block of Eighth Avenue in Homestead has until Tuesday to submit a plan on how it will correct numerous code violations cited at the properties.
If the owner of the properties, Gustine Properties Inc. of Pittsburgh, fails to submit a written formal plan on how it will proceed with fixing up the buildings, the matter will go before the local district justice, who can impose up to $5,000 in fines.

Since 1998, the South Side company has been attempting, in conjunction with the CVS Corp., to demolish the structures and build a 10,000-square-foot drug store on the site.

In 2000, the Homestead Council decided the store should not be the first sight to greet visitors to Homestead’s main street. At the suggestion of the Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation, which determined the buildings have historic value to the community, the council denied a request by the developers to tear down the buildings. Council members preferred that the buildings be renovated instead.

The refusal ignited a $7 million lawsuit against the borough, council, the planning commission, Mayor Betty Esper, the borough of West Homestead and its mayor, John Dindak.

The suit also named a number of private organizations and individuals, including the foundation; its president, Arthur P. Ziegler Jr.; and general counsel, Elisa Cavalier; the Homestead Area Economic Revitalization Corp.; the Steel Valley Enterprise Zone Corp.; and local business owners George DeBolt, David Lewis and Judith Tener.

The private parties, who were being defended by the American Civil Liberties Union, were dropped from the lawsuit in March, but the company continues to pursue litigation against the municipalities and its representatives.

In the meantime, residents and business owners, most notably former codefendant and West Homestead resident Lewis, who owns four buildings in the borough, have complained that the company has allowed its properties on Eighth Avenue to deteriorate to levels that violate local building codes.

Many have agreed with Preservation Pittsburgh President Sandra Brown that the condition of the properties is “demolition by neglect.”

Stephen Volpe, Homestead code enforcement officer, conducted a walk-through of the 10 buildings owned by Gustine on April 22 as part of a “neighborhood sweep” that encompassed a number of structures located on Sixth through Ninth avenues.

He would not discuss the details of the inspection, but Cindy Dzadovsky, borough manager, said violation notices for five of the buildings were mailed to Gustine on April 26 and that exposure to the elements was the primary area issue.

Gustine was given 30 days to make changes and repairs necessary to bring the buildings into compliance with Homestead’s building codes.

If it fails to do so, it will be assessed fines not to exceed $1,000 apiece for each violation, Dzadovsky said.

Bob Gustine, the in-house lawyer for Gustine Properties, said the company is awaiting advice from Dusty Kirk and George Medved, the attorneys handling the lawsuit against Homestead, before making any changes to the property.

Neither Kirk nor Medved could be reached for comment.

Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation

100 West Station Square Drive, Suite 450

Pittsburgh, PA 15219

Phone: 412-471-5808  |  Fax: 412-471-1633