WESTMINSTER — The owners of a seven-unit apartment building under construction at the Main Street site of a building destroyed by fire in April, hope to rent to low-income tenants.
"We hope to rent to low- to moderate-income families through a federal program," said Richard Phelps of Manchester, who, along with his wife, Doris, owns the site at 88 W. Main St.
The Phelps bought the property from owner John A. Lescalete of Littlestown, Pa., after the apartment building was destroyed by an arson fire on April 24.
Construction on the new building began last week and is expected to be completed in about 30 days, Phelps said. No leases have been signed for the two-bedroom units, but he said he expected apartments would be available through some sort of rental-assistance program within 60 days.
When completed, the first floor willbe accessible to the handicapped, in compliance with a new federal law, he said. The building also will have a state-required sprinkler system, he said.
Phelps said he and wife own other apartment units in Carroll County. His company, Town House Associates, owns several hundred apartment units in Maryland and West Virginia.
Building at 88 W. Main St. has been allowed to proceed, even though the Phelpses filed suit Oct. 24 in Carroll Circuit Court against Westminster MayorW. Benjamin Brown and the City Council seeking to have a city rulingon impact fees waived.
According to the suit, when Phelps appliedto the city for a permit to rebuild the apartment, he was told he would have to pay $24,750 in water, sewer and capital benefit assessment tax.
Phelps asked the city to waive the impact fees because the building's use will be the same as before the fire.
The city refused to waive the fees and has told the Phelpses it will not approve construction on the property until the impact fees are paid, court records show.
However, Judge Francis Arnold ruled in November that thePhelps could go ahead with building after putting the fees in escrow. The city has issued building permits.
City Attorney John B. Walsh Jr. of Rockville, Montgomery County, filed a response to the Phelpses' suit in late November asking the court to require the couple to pay the fees.
The apartment building was razed after the fire that killed resident Carvin "Big Joe" Hanna, caused more than $100,000 damage and left 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. A Carroll jury subsequently cleared Woodward of charges. Charges against Ogline were dropped in August.