Hayfields permits improperly approved Balto. Co. halts renovation for landmarks panel OK

December 16, 1997|By Liz Atwood | Liz Atwood,SUN STAFF

Baltimore County officials have halted the renovation of several historic buildings at the controversial Hayfields golf community after learning that permits were issued without the approval of the Landmarks Preservation Commission.

Yesterday, county officials blamed clerical oversights for the improper issuance of four building permits on three occasions.

The errors came to light late last week as developer John Mangione briefed the commission on the project in Hunt Valley. After being contacted by county officials yesterday, he agreed to stop work until he could seek approval from the commission today.

"It's going to be a posthumous review," said building engineer John Reisinger. "With any luck, he can resolve it [today]."

County officials said they were to blame for the issuance of the permits, which included work on a former slave quarters, even though permit applications and computer records flagged the properties as historic.

"In the everyday push to get things done, it was overlooked," Reisinger said.

Ruth B. Mascari, chairwoman of the landmarks commission, said the Hayfields mistakes are only the most recent example of the county's failing to meet its obligations to historic structures. The commission checks permits to ensure that renovations do not destroy the character of historic buildings.

On several occasions, building permits allowing the alteration of historic structures have been granted without the commission's approval, she said. "It's beyond rude; it's illegal," she said.

County officials were chagrined that the mistakes occurred on permits for one of the most controversial projects to seek county approval in recent years.

The Mangione family is building a golf course and houses on the 474-acre farm at Shawan Road and Interstate 83 but has faced stiff opposition from area residents who have fought to preserve the land. John Mangione, manager of the project, could not be reached for comment yesterday.

The farm dates to the mid-18th century, when it was owned by the Bosley and Merryman families. Besides being the site of a Civil War encampment, the farm was renowned for its productivity and received a silver tankard from Revolutionary War hero Marquis de Lafayette as the best-managed farm in the state. Seven historic structures, including the 186-year-old farmhouse, are on the site.

The improper permits were issued in February, June and July for work to convert a former slave quarters into a pro shop; a farm manager's house into offices; and horse barns into golf cart maintenance and storage sheds.

"It's extremely frustrating to see the county issue a permit and not have it go through the process," said Jack Dillon, director of the Valleys Planning Council, which is challenging the Hayfields project in court.

Douglas A. Swam, permits services supervisor, said the mistake occurred because workers in his department failed to notice that the building requests involved historic structures. That information should have been caught on the permit applications and in computer records.

Had the historic designation been spotted, the applicant would have been sent to county historian John W. McGrain to verify the information and submit the proposal to the landmarks commission, Swam said.

A fifth permit, for excavation of a clubhouse foundation, received the necessary review.

Swam said the county does a better job keeping track of historic properties than it did a few years ago, when the records were not computerized. Still, with more than 600 properties on the landmarks list, workers who process permits have trouble keeping up with them, he said.

"Overall, we're doing a pretty good job," he said. "You're going to miss some."

Pub Date: 12/16/97

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