With further deterioration of its 1776-built Abraham Taylor House continuing to burden its public works and police departments, Richland Township supervisors voted unanimously at their Aug. 8 public meeting to exercise the 60-day notice, opt-out to automatic renewal provision in their one- year lease with the owner.
Lehigh Valley Health Network (LVHN) Realty Holding Company, retains the option to terminate the lease at any time, given 90 days notice.
The township has dealt with eviction of squatters, and securing against their return, a return considered very likely, while the township continues to hold liability for the premises.
Responding to pleas from members of its preservation board, supervisors also granted a wish for no demolition for at least 60 days, before a demolition permit could proceed for the owner. The lease had been entered into at the beginning of this year, as an alternative to granting the owner’s request for a demolition permit, while alternatives could be pursued to preserve the house, or at least its façade.
The owner is understood to still be open to discussing another arrangement, although the sketch plan for the site appears to preclude establishment of a two-acre saving space for the house, because it would violate their need to meet density requirements.
During discussion, officials emphasized their original interest in attempting to preserve the property as part of the township’s commitment to environmental and historic preservation, and their limitations deriving from the township not being the owner of the property.
The township has been assuming responsibility for utilities; all needed structural repairs; routine maintenance and repairs; and any HVAC system replacements for the W. Pumping Station Road property, as well as maintaining liability tenant property insurance. The landlord has continued responsibility for real estate taxes, and any municipal charges that may occur during the lease.
At a previous supervisors’ meeting, Richard Sadler, from the township’s preservation board, noted that the house, the oldest in the township, was eligible for the National Register of Historic Places, and was one of a “handful” of area buildings left from a 1784 tax record.
As a first step, supervisors had agreed to provide $500, to add to $1,000 from Heritage Conservancy, for expert evaluation of the house’s condition, and some further research, by the conservancy’s Jeff Marshall. That “Architectural and Historic Assessment” report was completed, and posted with the Oct. 11, 2021 meeting agenda on the township website.
Marshall’s report concluded that “every effort be made to retain the front two, historic, sections of the building, and to protect its exterior appearance through a preservation easement or covenant.” Additionally his report stated that the house “should be preserved with enough surrounding open land to maintain its historic context.”