County Stabilizes Cliff Near Brooklyn Park Home

Developer Left Excavation Site When Money Ran Out

September 25, 1991|By John A. Morris | John A. Morris,Staff writer

For more than a year, Cathy Day felt as if her Brooklyn Park home were teetering on the brink of disaster.

A developer had excavated as many as 500 truckloads of dirt from the vacant lot next door beforeabandoning the property -- and leaving a sheer, 40-foot cliff less than 10 feet from Day's home. The exposed roots from Day's hedges dangled from the earth.

"Sometimes friends, after driving by on Ritchie Highway, would call us all worried that our house was going to fall," Day said."Every time the weatherman would call for hurricanes and showers, we would wonder, too."

A licensed day-care mother, Day said she didn't dare allow the children outside her small fenced-in play area for fear they would get too close to the edge.

"When the ball went out near the hedges, I told them right away to leave it alone, they couldn't getit," she said.

Last week, after countless complaints by Day and other community leaders to elected officials, the county intervened. Road crews from the Department of Public Works shored up the cliff with a sloping earthen bank and spread grass seed and mulch to prevent further erosion.

Assistant County Attorney Cheryl Boudreau said those measures are temporary solutions. Yesterday, she said the county is preparing to sue the developer, Holly Properties, for failure to comply with its approved grading plan and leaving the site in an unsafecondition.

Because officials with Holly Properties have declared bankruptcy, Boudreau said the county will seek a court order commanding the developer, or whoever purchases the site, to complete the work.

John Peacock, chief of environmental enforcement for the county Department of Permits and Inspections, cited Holly Properties for grading violations on Aug. 8 and assessed the company $14,850 in civil penalties. Those penalties doubled Sept. 20 when the company failed topay.

The county seized a $2,500 performance bond posted by the developer to pay for the public works crews. But County Councilman George Bachman, D-Linthicum, said he is worried that the bond is not highenough to cover all the work that needs to be done.

Bachman said yesterday he has proposed the county attach a lien to the property for any cost overruns.

Additional grading is needed and a sediment-control pond still must be removed, Peacock said.

"It's still an eyesore and by no means environmentally satisfactory," Peacock said.

Once the site of, successively, a stately mansion, a Jewish synagogue and a motorcycle club, the property at the corner of Ritchie Highway and E. Charles Street has a recent history as a public nuisance, said Charles Elliott, president of the Brooklyn Heights Improvement Association.

"I hope by God somebody buys it and puts something nice in there," Elliott said. "It's been an eyesore."

Holly Properties obtained a grading permit Feb. 3, 1989. Peacock said the developer apparently planned to build three homes on the site. After they had finished excavating, however, work stopped, leaving a planned retaining wall only partially constructed.

Bachman and state Sen. Philip C. Jimeno, D-Brooklyn Park, expressed dismay that the county issued the developer a permit to excavate the cliff and then failed to enforce grading laws sooner.

"I don't know what went wrong, but that's not the way Anne Arundel County should be doing business," Jimeno said.

"You talk about somebody raping a piece of property, there is a perfect example of it," Bachman said. "It looked like a huge bomb crater-- that's all it was.

"The county fell down on the job," Bachman said. "They didn't review the plans properly. It's a perfect example of the county not keeping track of what was going on."

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