Jeffrey Perelman, a well-known Philadelphia philanthropist and Main Line billionaire who infamously sued his father several years ago, suffered a defeat in another lawsuit this week over a neighbor's proposal to build a new house.
Perelman and his wife, Marsha, lost an appeal in Commonwealth Court over proposed construction at 115 Cherry Lane in Lower Merion. The court ruled that the property owner, Aram Jerrehian Jr., has the right to build a house.
In addition to a power couple with a famous last name, the dispute involves a property steeped in history. The 3.8-acre parcel identified in the suit as “the Pool Lot” is part of a one-time 40-acre estate called Hedgeley.
Hedgeley dates to the 1870s when William Winsor bought the sprawling land in the hills of Lower Merion's Wynnewood section. It remained a single estate off Cherry Lane until the 1950s when Winsor’s heir died and the land was split into four parcels by Orphan’s Court. One of those lots became the Pool Lot.
The exclusive neighborhood of long driveways and massive mansions is home to some of Philadelphia richest business owners and entrepreneurs. Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie lives on an estate of his own a block away from the Hedgeley properties.
An attorney who represented Lower Merion Township in the appeal to Commonwealth Court said after the ruling that the Perelmans’ interest in preventing Jerrehian from building on the Pool Lot appeared to be as simple as keeping the status quo in the sparsely populated area.
“The property is from what I understand a very lovely piece of ground and the neighbor would like to maintain the privacy that the community there offers,” attorney Gilbert High, of the law firm High Schwartz, said.
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A three-judge panel of Commonwealth Court heard the case in September after Jerrehian appealed a ruling by the Lower Merion Zoning Board that he would have to seek a variance to build a new home on the property.
The zoning board found that the lot did not have what it deemed the proper street access required by township code, despite a finding by Lower Merion’s zoning officer that the lot did appear to pass muster for new construction without a variance.
A Common Pleas Court upheld the board’s ruling.
Attorneys for the Perelmans and Jerrehian presented arguments to Commonwealth Court. The Perelmans made two claims: that 115 Cherry Lane did not have adequate street access, and that it was not an official subdivision from the adjacent 103 Cherry Lane.
Jerrehian bought 115 Cherry Lane in 2006 from Bert and Anne O’Malley. The O’Malleys sold 103 Cherry Lane a year earlier to a separate buyer.
The court rejected both of the Perelmans’ claims. Separately, the court affirmed Jerrehian’s claim that the township zoning board did not apply its code properly when it determined the Pool Lot did not have adequate street access.
The Perelmans could appeal to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court or ask the Commonwealth Court to reconsider its ruling. Their lead attorney, Kenneth E. Aaron, did not respond to requests for comment. Another attorney for the Perelmans said she could not comment on whether the couple will use either option, or drop the case.
Jeffrey Perelman is the younger of two sons to Raymond and the late Ruth Perelman. His lawsuit against his father and older brother, Ronald, shook Philadelphia high society in 2010. The suit, dubbed Perelman v. Perelman, was related to the family’s extensive billion-dollar business holdings.
Both Jeffrey and Marsha Perelman have served on numerous boards of the largest institutions in the Philadelphia region.
Jerrehian and his attorney did not respond to requests for comment.
High, the township attorney, said that if the Perelmans decide to drop their case the only thing left for Jerrehian to do before constructing a new house on the Pool Lot is to get a building permit from Lower Merion.
“It’s not a life or death case,” High said. “They’re neighbors.”