New grandstands at Hopkins' Homewood Field being built somewhat ahead of zoning approval Hearing set next week on expansion plans

November 01, 1997|By Jamie Stiehm | Jamie Stiehm,SUN STAFF

New grandstands are on the way at the Johns Hopkins University's Homewood Field in North Baltimore -- even though the construction pace may be one step ahead of the city's zoning process.

A public hearing is scheduled for Tuesday before the city's zoning board on Hopkins' plan to enlarge the grandstands on the north side of the field on University Parkway. But ground was broken on the $2.3 million project early last month -- a month before next week's hearing.

Hopkins wants to complete the 4,700-seat grandstands -- which will replace permanent and temporary bleachers -- by the opening of the lacrosse season March 1. The old bleachers have been torn down, and concrete pillars have been erected to support what will be a 32-foot-high structure.

One reason for the project, according to the school's athletic department, is that Hopkins will be the host of the 1998 World Lacrosse Championships next summer. Hopkins has a long rich lacrosse history dating to 1906.

Hopkins officials and the company doing the work contend the construction does not violate the city's zoning law because the university has a building permit to replace the old bleachers.

A building permit was issued by the city to the university Sept. 29 to replace the structure with one of the same size and location, city officials said.

"The city knows we have gone ahead, and are seeking to expand the zoning permission to cover the entire new permanent grandstand," said Dennis O'Shea, a Hopkins spokesman. "There is this one issue remaining. Our understanding is that there's no problem."

For years, Hopkins has erected temporary bleachers to accommodate crowds for lacrosse games. The new grandstand will be the same size as the temporary and permanent bleachers put together, O'Shea said.

"To my knowledge, we are working within the parameters of the original permit," said Roy Kirby Jr. president of Roy Kirby & Sons, Inc., the general contracting company hired by Hopkins to do the work.

But some city officials suggest that Hopkins may be jumping the gun and expressed surprise that Hopkins had broken ground before the appeal was heard.

"The appeal is for an extension and enlargement. If they're taking it a step further [before the hearing], that's a bit premature on their part," said Geoff Veale, a zoning appeals adviser.

Zoning officials could not immediately say what, if any, penalties might apply if Hopkins began work without proper approval.

One community leader is upset that the project is proceeding so fast.

"We have yet to sign off," said A. J. O'Brien, head of the Tuscany-Canterbury neighborhood association. "I'm not certain it's going to have a finished look."

But university officials, who have discussed design concerns in meetings with local neighborhood groups, say the new grandstands will have a much more finished appearance than the old bleachers.

Sandra Sparks, director of the Greater Homewood Community Corp., agreed the grandstands would not hurt the character of the neighborhood.

"They're paying attention to how they face the street and the neighborhood," she said.

Pub Date: 11/01/97

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