Should Fire Victims Pay Impact Fees?

Councilwoman Argues That If They Rebuild, No Development Charges Should Be

Levied

November 20, 1991|By Maria Archangelo | Maria Archangelo,Staff writer

WESTMINSTER — If the owners of a West Main Street building destroyed by fire Sunday night decide to rebuild, they should not be required to pay city impact fees, a councilwoman says.

Councilwoman Rebecca A. Orenstein said yesterday that Rosenstock Realty should not have to pay development fees on new construction, if the owners redevelop the property themselves.

It remained unclear late yesterday afternoon what Rosenstock Realty plans to do with the site.

Owner LeRoy Rosenstock referred calls to his attorney, Marc G. Rasinsky of Westminster.

Rasinsky said his client has not decided whether to rebuild the property at 16. W. Main St., which housed Stem's Used Furniture and Heagy's Sport Shop.

He said if the family-owned company wanted to renovate or build onthe site, it would have to weigh the cost of impact fees, if levied,against the cost of challenging the fees in court.

Orenstein saidshe believes the case differs from the proposed redevelopment of 88 W. Main St., a building destroyed by fire in April, because new owners want to rebuild an apartment building on that site.

The new owners, Richard L. and Doris T. Phelps of Manchester, bought the propertyfrom owner John A. Lescalete of Littlestown, Pa., after the apartment building was destroyed April 24 by an arson fire.

When Richard Phelps applied for a building permit to rebuild an apartment building on the now-vacant lot, he was told he would have to pay $24,750 in water, sewer and capital benefit assessment tax.

The Phelpses have filed a lawsuit against Westminster Mayor W. Benjamin Brown and the City Council, claiming the impact fees should be waived because the building's use will be the same as before the fire.

According to the suit, filed in Carroll Circuit Court Oct. 24, Phelps asked the city to waive the impact fees Aug. 12.

The city refused to waive the fees and has told the Phelpses it will not inspect or approve construction on the property until the impact fees are paid, court records show.

City Attorney John B. Walsh Jr. of Rockville, Montgomery County,has not yet filed an answer to the suit. The Phelpses and their attorneys, Charles M. Preston and Charles Stoner of Westminster, could not be reached for comment.

The apartment building at 88 W. Main St.was razed after the fire that killed resident Carvin "Big Joe" Hanna, caused more than $100,000 damage and left at least 12 people homeless.

Two Westminster residents, John M. Woodward and Charles "Chicken Charlie" Ogline, were charged with arson and murder in connection with the blaze.

Woodward was cleared of the charges earlier this month by a Carroll jury.

The charges against Ogline were dropped inAugust.

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