Law office plan faces local objection Neighbors want Glen Burnie strip kept residential

September 08, 1992|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,Staff Writer

Two lawyers will face neighborhood opposition to a plan to move their offices into one of Glen Burnie's oldest buildings, the vacant Brayshaw house.

Former County Councilman Michael Gilligan and Robert Fuoco are buying the mostly restored structure, an 1800s manor house set back from the corner of Padfield Boulevard and Second Avenue. They hope to relocate their law offices to what had been Dr. Thomas H. Brayshaw's home and office, moving from space they are outgrowing a few blocks away.

To do that, they will have to cross an invisible line down Padfield Boulevard, a line that separates the back of Crain Highway's businesses from a middle-class residential neighborhood.

But some homeowners are not prepared to welcome what they view as a business encroaching on their neighborhood, even a quiet office whose owners landscape the now overgrown lot.

"This has been residential since I moved in," said George Samm, who has lived on Second Avenue since 1933. "Of course, I am opposed to it."

"I don't think it is a good idea at all," agreed Randell Comer, a Bethlehem Steel Corp. overhead crane operator who lives cater-cornered from the house.

The county and neighborhood have a generation-old understanding: Crain Highway would become a commercial strip, businesses such as the Bank of Glen Burnie could occupy the block between Crain and Padfield, and the other side of Padfield would remain residential.

The Brayshaw house, with its huge trees and graceful lilac bushes, seems a world and a century away from traffic-laden Crain Highway, Ritchie Highway and Baltimore-Annapolis Boulevard, which are within sight.

Mr. Comer and others fear that one business would lead to another; quiet streets of homes with blooming flowers would start bustling with businesses.

The lawyers, who point out that many of the gracious old homes in Annapolis have become law offices, say their six-person office would not intrude on the neighborhood. Mr. Gilligan said he would further renovate the house and landscape the grounds. The lot, 400 feet by 150 feet with a circular driveway, has enough room to park several cars. Mr. Gilligan employs one other lawyer, and he and Mr. Fuoco employ two secretaries and one investigator.

The lawyers are buying the property at a bank foreclosure auction after the remodeler fell upon financial woes. They hope to complete the purchase soon, obtain either a variance or zoning change for the office plan and to greet clients there by early 1993, Mr. Gilligan said.

The lawyers will attend tonight's Glen Burnie Improvement Association (GBIA) meeting to answer questions and, they hope, win support for their plans. The civic group has not taken a position on the proposed law office, but may do so at the meeting, depending on how area residents feel, said GBIA President Muriel Carter.

Some neighbors, among them longshoreman Jerry Stylc, say they have no objection to the law office. "It doesn't bother me none," he said, noting that over the years, potential buyers have talked about turning it into such things as a bed and breakfast inn, which he thought was a dreadful idea.

Histories of the area indicate that the Curtis Creek Mining Co. built the house in the mid-19th century for its agents.

Riding through the area in 1888 from his family's home in the southern part of the county, Dr. Brayshaw noticed that the small town lacked a doctor; he acquired the cottage in 1889. He married a schoolteacher and they expanded the house in 1904; she died in 1908.

The doctor, a natty dresser, continued to live there with his son, Thomas Jr., his mother and two sisters. The house took on the name Bachelor's Joy because of the social life that swirled around it.

Dr. Brayshaw died in 1927. By the mid-1980s, no direct descendants were left. The rest of the family had scattered and the house began to fall into disrepair. Though the Maryland Historical Trust considered it an historic home, there was no groundswell of support for the county or GBIA to buy it.

On a fall day in 1990, Thomas Chisholm, whose family-owned Severna Park company, Chisholm & Sons, specializes in restoring homes, heard that the family wanted to sell. He paid $349,000 -- no great bargain -- subdivided the land to build four smaller homes and pumped about $100,000 into renovating the house.

By spring 1991, he was hunting for a buyer, pricing the house at $349,000 -- nearly $200,000 more than most of the smaller homes in the neighborhood.

But the bottom fell out of the real estate market, the construction business lagged and his father died, Mr. Chisholm said. Last spring, a family inked a contract for $237,000, but the deal fell apart.

By then, he could no longer afford to hang onto the house. The Bank of Glen Burnie foreclosed on it and, two months ago, the lawyers made the winning $227,000 bid at auction.

In retrospect, Mr. Chisholm said, perhaps he should have bulldozed the mansion and built there. But turning the Brayshaw house into a law office, he added, "suits the building."

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