Casting Lots: Dividing up H-Town properties and the case of 101 Tenby Road


The grand old house at 101 Tenby Road


Another controversy is brewing in the Llanerch neighborhood. As the state of the Llandillo school building is still up in the air (Carelink has dropped their appeal to the Commissioners vote-down. The building’s future is not known), residents are debating the proposed razing of an old house on a picturesque corner lot.

The c. 1905, 4500 square foot, 6-bedroom, 4+ bath house at 101 Tenby Road is situated on a double lot (lots 76 and 77 deed to a Charles S. Taylor in 1901) at the corner of Bewley and Tenby Roads. The house, with a rich history of owners, was most recently the 40-year home to Mrs. Deal and her family. Mrs. Deal died in 2013 and the house is being sold by her estate. Mr. Deal, Mrs. Deal’s widower, is still in residence but plans to move to a smaller abode after the sale. According to slated buyer and contractor Rick Fuller, the property had fallen into dire structural straits over the past several years. The repair costs alone, according to the Realtor John Ryan, would hover around $300,000. Mr. Fuller is set to purchase the property for $350,000, winning out over other builders’ bids. That would put a private resident’s costs over $650,000 to purchase the property and bring it to livable standards. Fuller plans to raze the building and build two homes on the 17,800 square foot lot, resulting in two lots of about 8400 square feet (according to Mr. Ryan, this puts the lots at about 150 square feet larger than 85% of lots in Llanerch). The proposed plans include large covered porches and have been designed to compliment the neighborhood and to mimic neighborhood aesthetics that are pre-WW2.


Llanerch resident and president of the Board of Llanerch Civic Association Brian Elias sent an email to area neighbors Friday morning informing residents of an upcoming town hall meeting to discuss the process of subdividing lots in the township. The meeting has been organized to give residents a chance to discuss the legal and practical processes of the subdivision of lots. A meeting to specifically discuss 101 Tenby took place October 8th, 2014 at the Haverford Township Free Library (let’s have a “YAY HTFL!” for always providing the community with valuable meeting space and resources!). Mr. Elias’s email encouraged all to attend the subdivision meeting, to be held on Monday, October 20th at 7pm at the Llanerch Fire House located at 107 West Chester Pike.

The Llanerch Civic Association (LCA) email, penned by LCA Board President Brian Elias, sent out Friday, Oct. 17th, 2014 to area residents.

The Llanerch Civic Association (LCA) email, penned by LCA Board President Brian Elias, sent out Friday, Oct. 17th, 2014 to area residents.

In the email, Mr. Elias stated the purpose of the meeting was to “help educate the community about the process of subdivisions and new home construction in general, and keep to the community informed about this other projects in our neighborhood.

The neighborhood has seen quite a few subdivisions over the past decade. An exact number is not known (a records request will take some time, according to a source at the Township Administration office), but residents talk of at least one property division per year in the past several years. Big, old houses with large yards and covered porches are giving way to smaller lots with large homes with more square foot per person, bigger kitchens, open living designs and multiple gathering spaces spread throughout the house.


New resident Andrea E. Smith, whose house overlooks the property at 101 Tenby, has started a Facebook Page entitled “Save 101 Tenby Road” (250+ Likes, as of this writing) and is frantically drumming up support for the cause, hoping to make a difference before the November 17th settlement date. “We have a lot of support from other groups [like this] across the country,” Mrs. Smith said. Page co-organizer and 12-year Llanerch resident Stacy O’Leary said the home is historic and can be salvaged (note: the home is not currently not listed on any historic registers at this time). “The home needs a lot of work,” Mrs. O’Leary conceded. “Our thought [is] anyone who moves into these homes is prepared for a lot of work.” She added, “If I had any inkling the house was not going to be sold to another family, I would have gotten involved sooner.”

The pair have multiple concerns around the razing of the house and issues that come with new construction, including (but not limited to) noise pollution, traffic patterns and neighboring property values, but much of their passion lies in the love of old homes. “It’s just an astounding corner,” Smith said. “We’ll never get that back. Once it’s gone, it’s gone.”


A search for the rehabbers among us, subcategories for miles

O’Leary and Smith have plenty of like-minded people online. HGTV, for example, has numerous programs dedicated to the rehabbing of older homes. Websites like list various historical-home interest groups. A search on Pinterest for “old homes” brings up not only thousands of pictures but many sub-categories surrounding restorations.

Some old homes are not economical to save, let alone environmentally sound. 101 Tenby, like many old homes, has very inefficient windows (over 80 of them!), subpar insulation, asbestos floor and ceiling tiles, and of course no central air conditioning, among other outdated, bad-for-the-environment problems. 2 newer homes on that property might burn less fossil fuels combined than 101 Tenby, even if the house were to be gutted and remodeled. As an indicator of popular interest, a Pinterest search shows just as much interest in a “modern homes” as an “old homes” query produces.

Another issue is property taxes. Right now the Deal house supposedly generates about $11,000/year in taxes (according to real estate websites, but the DELCO website lists something less). Each new property on the land will generate about $19,000-$22,000 each in tax payments per year (based on similar assessments for new properties in the area), bringing in a difference of at least $26,000/year for a township whose school district’s Expenditure per Pupil rate hovers around $12,000 per student per year.

Mr. Ryan said he spent “quite a few days” discussing the home with builder Mr. Fuller. When showing this Havertownies reporter the home, including serious problems like  ever-present water leakage and precariously bent and woefully inefficient supporting beams, Ryan said all avenues were explored to save the property. “Over the past several years, the scant offers that came in from private buyers were not tenable,” Ryan said. “Because the remodeling costs would be so high, the individual offers were often too low.”


Sleek, cutting edge designs for the modern home owner

A separate source for Havertownies reported that the best of the range of private offers to purchase 101 Tenby over the years was in the $200,000 to 250,000 area, $100,000+ less than what the estate is due to garner for the property at November 17th’s settlement. According to another source, as far as Pennsylvania estate law goes, the Tenby estate is under legal obligation to pursue the best offer for the property or face “bad faith” litigation from the beneficiaries.


Come to the meeting Monday night (7pm at Llanerch Fire House) even if you aren’t a Llanerch section resident. The bigger issue is relevant for all of H-Town: how much say should residents have about the look and feel of their local neighborhood? The trees? The driveways, the sidewalks, and the house designs? Many residents chose H-town because of these old houses and ache to see them torn down to make way for homes they feel lack character and charm. The current laws in the township, county and commonwealth side toward the landowner. Smith and O’Leary are learning about other municipalities where home values were collectively raised by a connected community that carefully took steps to preserve the je-ne-sais-quoi of their neighborhoods. Perhaps it’s time to start exploring something similar for Haverford Township.

What do you think? What kind of architecture is in your neighborhood? What would you do, if you owned a double lot? What kind of money have you spent remodeling your H-Town home?

Let us know in the comments. (We’re moderating these comments and the ones over on our Facebook post)