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Quakertown Lifts Bush House Hotel Condemnation Order
Written by Bradley Schlegel, Staff Writer

            Quakertown officials last week lifted the condemnation order for the Bush House Hotel, 200 West Broad St., said Doug Wilhelm, the borough's building code official and zoning officer.

            Municipal officials conducted a full inspection of the structure at least three different times, according to Wilhelm. He said the last one occurred two weeks ago.  "All of the life safety issues have been rectified," Wilhelm said Tuesday morning, declining to comment further.

            According to borough Manager Scott McElree, some rooms at the boarding house have already been filled. He said Thomas Skiffington, who owns the 64,000 square foot property, took the condemnation order seriously.

            "The owner made the repairs he had to make to satisfy our condemnation order," said McElree, who added that he heard the rents have increased. "He did a lot of work in a very short time."

            Municipal officials confirmed the improvements – which included fumigation, the cleaning out and the replacement of fire detection issues -- during an inspection in early January, according to the manager.

            He said the owner made several improvements unrelated to the condemnation, such as replacing several doors, patching holes in ceilings and replacing ceiling tiles, repairing railings and steps, and installing a new hardwood floor on the third floor.  "The property is a lot nicer," McElree said. "It's a lot less detrimental to the people who would rent there."

             Skiffington could not be reached for comment. A voice message mailbox connected to his real estate office, located at 701 W Market Street Perkasie, could not accept any new messages.

            In November, borough officials condemned the property, forcing 64 residents to exit the structure after claiming to discover unprecedented infestation and other unsafe and unsanitary conditions.

            Two months ago, McElree identified the volume of pests in the structure as mind-boggling and described its condition as deplorable.  "The degree of infestation would shock your conscience," McElree said two months ago.

            The infestation by German Roaches and bed bugs extended well beyond any single room and into the common areas, as well as into the fundamental infrastructure of the building, including electric, plumbing, and fire protection facilities, according to a Nov. 12 news release posted on the borough's website.

            The service of an administrative warrant in October led borough officials to condemn the controversial 101-room boarding house. After going through approximately half the rooms with an exterminating company in October, municipal officials determined the only way to get rid of extensive infestation was to totally evacuate it and "take the building down to its bare studs," according to Wilhelm. He added previously that chemicals and heat would be required to remedy the situation.

            Nine days after the condemnation, the hotel owner filed a civil lawsuit accusing Quakertown officials of scheming to force the sale of the facility. The suit, filed Nov. 19 in Bucks County Common Pleas Court and withdrawn 11 days later, claimed that an order condemning the boarding house was intended to coerce Skiffington into selling the property at a discounted price so it could be redeveloped as a use preferred by the borough.

            The legal document, which lists McElree and Wilhelm as the defendants, requested that municipal officials restore the utilities and prevent them from interfering with the business owner's representatives and professionals to enter any of the properties in order to prevent proper inspections of current conditions, according to the legal document submitted by Daniel Utain, with the firm of Kaplin Stewart Meloff Reiter & Stein, P.C., of Blue Bell.






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