Battle (on)lines drawn in Roxborough Wendy’s proposal

 The site of the former Bunting House could soon be a Wendy's fast-food restaurant. (Bas Slabbers/for NewsWorks)

The site of the former Bunting House could soon be a Wendy's fast-food restaurant. (Bas Slabbers/for NewsWorks)

The prospect of a Wendy’s restaurant at the site of the former Bunting House in Roxborough is again riling tensions regarding the Ridge Avenue site.

City officials confirmed to NewsWorks that developers are seeking to locate a Wendy’s fast food restaurant at the site of a demolished historic house.

Meanwhile, an online petition at www.roxoboroughwendys.com continues to seek neighborhood support for the project by touting “great food choices,” jobs, tax dollars and other benefits. However, the site does not identify who posted it or who is collecting the information.

Mysterious roots

Attorney Hal Schirmer, who has represented neighbors opposed to a fast-food restaurant on the site at 5901 to 5909 Ridge Ave., said he has had difficulty learning the current owner’s identity.

“There’s an imaginary person who controls the property. I don’t know who to talk to about who has the authority to talk about the project,” Schirmer said.

The owners are identified in documents only as 5901 Ridge LLC and contact information on the website leads only to a general email inbox or a P.O. Box address.

Developers Frank and Anthony Giovannone identified themselves as owners of the property last year.

In February, they told neighbors at a meeting of the Central Roxborough Civic Association that they did not have any agreement in place with Wendy’s or any other fast-food chain but said they had filed a preliminary plan with the city Planning Commission for such an establishment at the site.

Schirmer said he has not had contact with the Giovannones since last March.

Neither the Giovannones nor attorney Carl Primavera, who has represented them, returned calls for comment from NewsWorks.

Schirmer said the five lots on Ridge Avenue were purchased for a total of $950,000 and therefore have no mortgages that would identify who the current investors are.

“Someone wants to stay under the radar,” he said.

Action, but no clearance

Heavy equipment has been used for digging recently at the site, but no permits have been pulled for construction, Schirmer said.

The property was the location of the Bunting House, the 19th-century home of a prominent Roxborough doctor.

The Giovannones won the court battle over demolition of the building, which they said was too deteriorated to be preserved, and razed it in Dec. 2012. The building was not listed on the Philadelphia Register of Historic Places.

Neighbors opposed to construction of a fast-food restaurant at the site circulated online petitions to stop such a project.

The current online petition in favor of a Wendy’s will likely be used at a future zoning board meeting by the owners to show neighborhood support for the restaurant, Schirmer said.

A fast-food restaurant at that site would require a special-use permit from the board.

“Right now, the ball is in the court of the owners or developer or franchiser,” Schirmer said. “We’re waiting to find out who’s in charge. It’s hard when you don’t know who you’re talking to. It can be a little frustrating.”

NewsWorks has partnered with independent news gatherer PlanPhilly to provide regular, in-depth, timely coverage of planning, zoning and development news. Contact Alan Jaffe at alanjaffe@mac.com.

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