Judge delays facade demolition Historic building was damaged in Annapolis fire

December 24, 1997|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,SUN STAFF

The owner of a burned Annapolis building may not demolish the historic facade yet, an Anne Arundel County Circuit Court judge ruled yesterday, but the judge also recommended that city officials decide quickly whether the charred brick ruins should be saved.

The injunction by Judge James C. Cawood Jr. delighted the Historic Annapolis Foundation. The nonprofit group sued to prevent Ronald B. Hollander from razing what is left of his 1899 building in the historic district before an evaluation and without approval from the Historic Preservation Commission.

Hollander's lawyers argued unsuccessfully that the cracked -Z facade of 184-186 Main St. posed a safety hazard, despite city efforts to brace it. Shoring it up is expected to cost $30,000 and start another legal wrangle over whether the city or Hollander should pay for the city-ordered work.

Cawood was unswayed by the argument of Daniel Mellin, Hollander's attorney, who said it was an "illogical conundrum" to spend money to shore up a structure about to fall down just to get permission from the commission to tear it down. Cawood said there is no guarantee that the commission will favor demolition.

In a ruling that ended daylong court proceedings, Cawood said the Historic Preservation Commission has jurisdiction over the site unless the remains deteriorate to create an emergency. Then city public works officials could decide to tear the building down.

"It's the best it could be. It supports the jurisdiction of the Historic Preservation Commission. It takes the emergency nature away," said Ann M. Fligsten, president of the Historic Annapolis Foundation.

The organization wanted only to ensure that all parties would comply with provisions that route architectural decisions in the historic district through the commission, she said.

Last week, city public works officials declared unsafe the building destroyed in a blaze Dec. 9 and said it could be demolished. After fierce opposition from preservationists, they backed off from an agreement with Hollander and denied his request.

Yesterday, the city's sole position was to decline Cawood's invitation to join the proceedings.

The injunction has no expiration date, unlike Friday's temporary restraining order, which had a 10-day life span. Cawood said he could not order the commission to hurry its decision but that he would "recommend" that.

Hollander said he was disappointed. He can ask the Historic Preservation Commission to add him belatedly to its Jan. 9 agenda or hold a separate hearing to hurry his request.

Otherwise, the next open agenda is Feb. 10.

He filed a demolition request yesterday with the commission. Commission approval is needed before public works officials grant a nonemergency demolition permit.

Hollander is expected to renew his bid with public works officials.

Demolition requests to the Historic Preservation Commission are supposed to be accompanied by architectural plans for a replacement structure. But designing a building is a lengthy process, Hollander said.

The commission could allow demolition with the condition that the landowner submit plans within a specified time, said Aliki Kulukundis, the Historic Annapolis Foundation's director of preservation outreach.

Pub Date: 12/24/97

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