City may be forced to demolish 306 buildings landlord owns Baltimore must assess condition of Connolly's properties

March 04, 1997|By Brenda J. Buote | Brenda J. Buote,SUN STAFF

Over objections by the city's attorney, a U.S. Bankruptcy Court judge required Baltimore yesterday to pay the price for the failings of landlord R. William Connolly Jr., who recently declared bankruptcy and abandoned more than 300 decrepit buildings.

The potential cost to taxpayers: $4.5 million.

That's how much the Housing Authority of Baltimore City would have to spend to demolish the vacant buildings, according to Housing Commissioner Daniel P. Henson III.

At the outset of yesterday's court hearing, the city's attorney, Michael G. Raimondi, asked the judge to order the court-appointed trustee of the properties, Joel I. Sher, "to use whatever resources the estate has" to continue maintaining the buildings for 90 days.

But the judge rejected that proposal.

"The trustee doesn't have the money to maintain these properties, and the owner isn't going to do it so if the city wants something to happen, they're going to have to make some kind of offer," Judge James F. Schneider said before ordering the parties "to sit down together and try to work out some sort of agreement."

That agreement, reached during a three-hour recess, makes city officials responsible for assessing the condition of 306 properties Connolly owns that are scattered throughout Baltimore.

"Many of the buildings will have to be demolished," Raimondi said. "We'll have to take a look at each property individually."

If demolished, each building would cost taxpayers $15,000. It's not clear which party would retain control of buildings that might be salvageable.

Sher was in Bankruptcy Court yesterday to request an order that would require Connolly to take responsibility for his properties because they are of no value to creditors. City officials objected to that arrangement because Connolly has a history of failing to maintain his properties.

James R. Wooton, Connolly's attorney, also objected to the abandonment proceeding because he feared control of the properties would revert to Connolly, who is bankrupt and unable to maintain them.

Connolly became a familiar figure in Housing Court during the 1980s. His tenants, mainly low-income people, have repeatedly complained about such problems as leaking roofs, trash-strewn yards, broken windows and rats.

Of 570 properties originally owned by Connolly and his wife, Marcia, 68 are occupied, 12 have been demolished, about 130 have been sold or are likely to be sold, and about 75 have been returned to creditors, according to court records.

The department has 399 notices of outstanding violations against Connolly's properties, according to officials at the Housing Authority.

In 1993, faced with financial difficulties as a result of persistent problems with the properties, Connolly and his wife filed for personal bankruptcy protection under Chapter 11 of the federal bankruptcy laws, which provides protection from creditors while filers reorganize their finances.

Court records show the Connollys later were forced into Chapter 7 bankruptcy, which requires the liquidation of all assets.

At least 31 lead-paint cases were pending against Connolly at the time of the bankruptcy, according to court records. At yesterday's hearing, the city and the trustee retained the right to file claims against Connolly in Bankruptcy Court.

Disgruntled Waverly residents who live near one of Connolly's vacant buildings, at 644 Parkwyrth Ave., were disappointed with yesterday's settlement.

"The lenders, not the city, should be forced to bear the burden of razing those properties," said Dianne Wheaton, co-chair of the Waverly Improvement Association.

Pub Date: 3/04/97

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