Final Call on Cromwell Court Demolition Set for Next Week
Superior Court Judge Eugene McCaffrey Jr. will hear arguments Tuesday before issuing a final decision.
A court decision on whether to finish demolishing 113 Cromwell Ct. is likely to come next week, after a Superior Court judge granted a four-day extension Thursday to an injunction in place since demolition began in February.
Whether he orders it razed or allows Michael Crowley, who now owns the property via a quitclaim deed, to rebuild what’s left of the partially demolished home, Judge Eugene McCaffrey Jr. said his primary concern is over the health and safety of residents, and aimed to resolve the demolition quickly.
“I fully expect to render a decision on Tuesday,” he said. “I want to do what’s right here.”
That hearing will involve testimony from professionals on both sides, and McCaffrey said he’d personally go out to Cromwell Court in the meantime to view the house for himself.
Before the judge declared the Tuesday hearing, West Deptford solicitor Anthony Ogozalek Jr. argued there’s no reason to delay further, calling the house “a menace to the neighborhood.”
“Regardless of how we got to this point, the house is in the condition it’s in,” Ogozalek said. “There’s a hazard there.”
That outweighs Crowley’s interests, Ogozalek claimed, pointing to the fact that Crowley’s stake is purely financial. Crowley was under contract to buy the home for $50,000, and Ogozalek noted there was somewhere between $95,000 and $125,000 worth of work to do to bring the home up to the level of the rest on the court, which are assessed between $230,000 and just under $300,000.
But a quick decision wasn’t in the offing, as McCaffrey said he was uncomfortable making a call on demolition without hearing more from both sides.
There were also concerns over the demolition contractor’s qualifications raised by Michael Ward, Crowley’s attorney, who said mishandled asbestos siding was a particular problem.
“We don’t want to have a problem down the road with friable asbestos in the ground,” Ward said.
Though Ogozalek argued that type of siding isn’t considered friable asbestos, he acknowledged the township wouldn’t be opposed to letting Crowley pick a different contractor to finish the job, provided the two sides could agree on a specific timeframe for demolition.
While the saga of the abandoned, long-neglected home may be over in the most visible sense next week, there’s still more to be tackled.
If McCaffrey rules the property is unsafe and orders the demolition to be finished—either by the township or by Crowley, depending on what’s negotiated—he said the door is open to monetary damages.
“If that’s the case, then you can amend your complaint…to pursue whatever economic damages you think are appropriate,” McCaffrey said.
Several residents from in and around Cromwell Court attended the court proceeding, and, as John Bond, who lives next door to the partially demolished home, said, were resigned to waiting the process out a few more days.
“We’ll see what happens Tuesday,” Bond said.