Rutter's Farm Stores will have one year to demolish the Hoke House.
The Manchester-based convenience store chain applied for a demolition permit in October, just days after the Spring Grove Borough Council found the company in violation of borough code for the condition of the building -- the community's oldest.
"Their options were to fix it or to apply for a permit to demolish it," said borough Manager Andrew Shaffer.
That permit has an 80-day waiting period and will become valid in mid-January. From that point, Rutter's will have one year to demolish the building.
While the company hasn't announced plans to do so, spokeswoman Alex Henry said in a letter that Rutter's has no plans to restore the property.
"At this time, Rutter's has no legitimate business use for the old house. Without a use, and because the interior was not historically preserved, we do not believe that investing over $690,000 to remodel the house for use as a commercial property would be a wise use of our charitable monies," she said.
The company instead chooses to invest in local charities for children, including Make A Wish, the YMCA, Leg Up Farm, Crispus Attucks, Red Cross, Salvation Army, Junior Achievement, York County Libraries and others.
"We simply cannot justify telling these, and many other charities, that they will not be supported by Rutter's the next two to three years because the Rutter's charity money went to remodel the former Hoke House," Henry said.
The inside of the house, which once hosted first President George Washington and later the 35th Battalion of the Virginia Cavalry, has been damaged by vandals and contains very little of its original architecture, according to Rutter's.
"We recently had the house surveyed, and the only original elements inside that remain are attic beams and some attic floor planks," Henry said.
The rest of the interior was altered through the years while serving as a home, library, tavern, doctor's office, apartments, and carpet and tile showroom.
The Hoke House was rezoned for commercial use in the 1960s, and Rutter's purchased the property in 2008.
"The land purchase made sense for us since the house property was already zoned commercial and it had a large open tract of land that made a future expansion of our store possible," Henry said.
During the last five years, the company has said it had no need or plan for the house, she said.
A letter from the borough dated Oct. 20 required Rutter's to either repair the house and meet borough code, raze it within 90 days or after 90 days begin paying a $1,000 per day fine.
"In order to meet the 90-day deadline and avoid the $1,000 per day fine that would be imposed, we applied for a demolition permit while we sorted out our options," Henry said.
Because the house is zoned for commercial use, it can't be used as a residence or apartments.
Rutter's has invited investors and local residents to come up with a plan and proven funding for the property, but nobody has approached the company, she said.
Members of the Spring Grove Historical Preservation Society hope it is preserved, said Mayor Dolores Aumen.
The group has been working for more than a year to protect the building and hang on to a piece of history in Spring Grove.
Aumen said she'd like to see it as a visitor's center, restaurant, museum or offices.
Rutter's said all of those ideas will require money to first restore the property -- the $690,000 -- and a business plan with ongoing support for the investment.
"I think they're really looking for someone who can come forward with a business plan to save the building," Shaffer said. "There's a large population of the community that wants to see it preserved."
In the event no business plan is in place and Rutter's doesn't demolish the Hoke House by mid-January 2014, the company's demolition permit will become void.
"At that point, it would go back to council," Shaffer said. "If it goes that long, it could get a little interesting. That's a different scenario we've never been in."
--Reach Candy Woodall at email@example.com.