Questions linger on historic Pfoutz home demolition

By on June 19, 2019

Warwick Township has been fielding a few calls regarding the demolition of the historic Johannes Pfoutz home on Rothsville Road at Heck Road.

At the June 5 meeting of the Warwick Township Board of Supervisors meeting, that house was the impetus for discussion on how the township handles requests for demolition of historic buildings in the township. The house was likely built in the 1850s as living quarters for the miller who operated the adjacent stone mill. The mill has a much richer history than the house. The mill originated with Jacob

Geyer, who had a hemp and oil mill sometime before 1772. Johannes Pfoutz built the present two-and-a-half story limestone mill in 1793.

“There are no plans to demolish the mill,” assured township manager Daniel Zimmerman.

Demolition of the house came about after John Banta sold the property where the mill and house are situated. The new owner, David King, requested that he be allowed to demolish the house back in November 2018. The house is located at 3 N. Heck Road and sits at the very edge of Rothsville Road along Lititz Run and across from South Heck Road and Warwick Road.

There were issues with sight distance visibility and driveway access to the home. The area has been the location of several accidents, including fatalities, over the years, due to the sharp curve at the bridge and the house being so close to the road. Another house across the street has been struck by vehicles on several occasions.

King was granted permission to demolish the house, so that he could build a new house set back from the road, with better visibility and driveway access.

“It’s still sad to see to the house being torn down, but the mill will remain,” said Zimmerman, adding that the mill is in good condition and will be preserved.

The historic 1793 Pfoutz Mill will be preserved, but the adjacent house is being demolished so a new home can be built back from the roadway in a safer location on North Heck Road. Photo by Laura Knowles.

Photo by Cory Van Brookhoven

The challenge of balancing the preservation of history with the rights of property owners to make their own decisions about use of their property led to the suggestion that Warwick Township develop a historic building list.

The list could be used to determine the historic value of the buildings scattered throughout Warwick Township. An inventory could guide supervisors and planners on which structures should be preserved and which can be renovated or even demolished when warranted. Buildings on the National Registry, state or county registries would be prioritized for their historical significance.
Lititz Borough has a historic district with exacting guidelines on preserving historic buildings, said Zimmerman. As a township that is larger and more spread out, it is more difficult to regulate historic buildings.

“Warwick Township is actually older than Lititz,” said Zimmerman, noting that the township was founded in 1721 and will be marking 300 years in 2021.

Supervisors agreed to consider putting together a group to inventory historic buildings to give them a better perspective when requests come in for renovation or demolition.

Supervisors were instrumental in helping to save the historic Leib House near Traditions of American property, which was ultimately moved by the Buckwalters to its current location on West Woods Drive. They also supported the renovation of the barn on East Newport Road, which was successfully repurposed as Brick Gables and Zig’s Bakery & Café.

In another matter requiring balance between new technology and the appearance and safety of neighborhoods, supervisors approved the amendment ordinance for general and specific standards relating to the location, placement, construction and maintenance of communication towers and antennas within public and private right-of-ways.

The ordinance updates are intended to prepare for the new G5 technology, which creates a fifth generation of high speed wireless communications. To achieve the higher bandwidth for the G5 technology, there will need to be more wireless antennas on lamp posts, utility poles and other structures. While the new technology is in high demand, there are also some concerns about safety.

The township’s amended ordinance has guidelines for the location of towers in order to reduce the potential risks.

The amended ordinance covers the application process for communication antennas, towers, and accessory equipment outside the public right-of-way, with time frames for application, processing, insurance certification, and liability waiver regulations. They cannot be located within 200 feet of any school or park.

Zimmerman noted that with rapid advances in communication technology, the amended ordinance will likely need to be updated in a few years.

In other business, supervisors approved a settlement agreement with Matt Garman and Mike Garman for a tract at 813 Pine Hill Road. The Germans had wanted to build a duplex home in place of a mobile home on the property, but were denied a continued variance/special exception by the Zoning Hearing Board.

Laura Knowles is a freelance feature writer and regular contributor to the pages of the Record Express. She welcomes feedback and story tips at lknowles21@gmail.com.

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