Council OKs power to condemn

January 10, 1995|By Donna E. Boller | Donna E. Boller,Sun Staff Writer

Westminster City Council agreed unanimously last night that the city should have the power to condemn buildings so deteriorated that they may be a health or safety hazard.

The council also approved a study to assess what renovations would be required to convert the old West End School to an adult day care and assisted living center when the Westminster Senior Center and Carroll County Office on Aging leave the building for new quarters next year.

When city officials determined they had no legal power to act on neighbors' complaints about deteriorating houses on Charles Street last year, they responded with an ordinance that allows city government to step in when property owners allow their buildings to become so dilapidated that the buildings pose a health or safety threat.

The ordinance approved last night includes safeguards proposed by Councilwoman Rebecca A. Orenstein that would require Historic District Commission review and council approval before the city could go to court seeking demolition orders on buildings.

Councilman L. Gregory Pecoraro said he expected the ordinance to be used only rarely.

"But inevitably, there is going to be a recalcitrant, maybe an absentee owner, that we're not going to be able to persuade to do the right thing," he said.

The former West End School may become an adult day care center and assisted living center for elderly people who "are not well enough to live independently, but not sick enough to need a nursing home," Karen K. Blandford, city housing and community development supervisor, told the council.

The council accepted architect Dean Camlin's $3,500 proposal to assess the building.

Ms. Blandford said the old school does not meet accessibility standards of the Americans with Disabilities Act and it may contain asbestos. She also noted that employees working there have warned her it needs major work on its heating system.

Family & Children's Services of Central Maryland is interested in moving its adult day care center from Eldersburg to Westminster, said Judy Carpenter, director of the South Carroll adult day care program.

She said South Carroll now has three day care centers for the elderly. The Family and Children's Services center is at capacity with 20 clients and would like to expand, she said.

Ms. Carpenter said the agency hasn't made any formal commitment to city government, but is eager to expand its day care center. It would also operate the residential assisted living units planned for the second floor of the building.

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