Aigburth Vale To Be Renovated For Office Use

April 21, 1997|By Suzanne Loudermilk | Suzanne Loudermilk,SUN STAFF

After months of weighing proposals for deteriorating Aigburth Vale in Towson, a committee of county and community representatives last week agreed that the historic mansion should be renovated into offices.

If County Executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger and the County Council approve, local builder Martin P. Azola will be awarded the three-acre property with the once-grand villa. His plan beat a proposal by Ronald and Anne Pomykala to turn the 1868 estate into a country inn.

The Pomykalas, owners of Gramercy Mansion bed and breakfast in Stevenson, wanted to open a 17-room inn with a restaurant at the site on Aigburth Road near Towson High School.

But the 110-seat restaurant with a liquor license was a sticking point with many residents.

"A country inn sounds wonderful but not a restaurant open seven days a week with traffic," said neighbor Sally Malena.

Though the Pomykalas recently decided to drop the restaurant from their proposal, resistance from the community continued.

"I think the concern was commercial zoning," said Robin Bruck, a Knollwood-Donnybrook resident. "Even without the restaurant, to have a bed and breakfast [with] 17 rooms, it would need commercial zoning since it would be in the hotel classification."

Aigburth was originally the home of John Owens, a renowned comedic actor in the 19th century. Later, the mansion was converted into a summer boardinghouse, then a sanitarium until the school system took it over in 1950.

In recent years, the grounds and buildings at Aigburth have fallen into disrepair. In addition to the leaking roof, ceilings are caving in, exterior boards are falling off and the paint is largely chipped away.

The county government took control of the 22-room house and outbuildings last year from the county school board.

The county offered the property for $500 in August to any individual or group that would restore the crumbling mansion. By December, the county had received nine applications. It narrowed its search to the Pomykalas and Azola.

"My proposal was to perpetuate the quiet office use that's been there for 47 years," Azola said.

Azola -- who has restored historic properties such as the Rockland stone houses at Falls and Old Court roads -- said he plans to begin repairing the mansion's leaking green mansard roof as soon as possible if the county approves his plan.

"It will be lovely to have the building fixed up," said Malena. "It's been an eyesore."

Initially, Azola envisioned nonprofit organizations moving to the refurbished mansion but has broadened his plan to include for-profit businesses.

At a meeting last week, Towson Republican Councilman Douglas B. Riley assured community members that they still would have input into plans for Aigburth during hearings to rezone the property from residential to office use.

Despite the promise of renovation, Carol Allen of Historic Towson Inc. said she still has concerns.

"Not much is going to happen for a while. And finding the appropriate tenant is going to take time," Allen said. "I'm a little nervous. Whoever does the work has to have enough money."

Pub Date: 4/21/97

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