Leader ousted from board Ruppersberger names replacement for Mascari on preservation panel

Old-line leadership ends

Move leaves members appointed by executive in control of group

January 02, 1998|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,SUN STAFF

Baltimore County Executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger has replaced the veteran chairwoman of the county Landmarks Preservation Commission, a move that cements his appointees' control over a group that has questioned his commitment to saving historic buildings.

Ruth B. Mascari, chairwoman for more than five years, is being replaced as a board member by W. Boulton Kelly, 69, a semiretired architect who specialized in exterior preservations and was formerly a member of the Baltimore Commission for Historic and Architectural Preservation.

The move, which follows the replacement of eight of the 15 commission members in July, eliminates the group's old-line leadership.

It again highlights conflicts between some longtime commission members and the county executive over the preservation of historic buildings threatened by development.

Ruppersberger says he favors a balance between the county's economic and preservation interests, while some preservationists fear more episodes such as last year's bulldozing of the 1767 Samuel Owings House in Owings Mills.

The house was leveled to make way for an office building after Ruppersberger and Councilman T. Bryan McIntire, a north county-Owings Mills Republican, kept it off the county's list of protected structures. They said they wanted to forge a compromise so the developer would carefully move and reconstruct it.

In another incident last month, a 190-year-old Sudbrook Park cabin was demolished by a developer worried that preservation efforts would interfere with his plans for an assisted-living facility.

McIntire and Councilman Vincent J. Gardina, a Perry Hall Democrat, say they would like to change the preservation process to prevent more destruction.

Despite Kelly's long list of qualifications, some county preservationists are suspicious of him because he recently appeared as a nursing home developer's expert witness, opposing the commission's effort to save historic gardens outside Balmuckety Mansion in Pikesville. The nursing home was never built.

Judith Kremen, a former commission member and now staff director of the county's private historic trust, and Mascari said Ruppersberger ignored candidates they recommended for the commission.

Phoebe Stanton, a former architectural history professor at the Johns Hopkins University and an early city landmarks commission member, said Kelly's Balmuckety role should not block his appointment. "I think he's a very good choice. He knows what he's doing, and he's a good man," she said.

Mascari also conceded that, "Indeed, Bo has a great deal of expertise."

Mascari, a county commission member since April 1986, said she was notified of her removal by letter last week. She wanted to stay on the commission until summer, and suspects that developers exerted pressure "to have me replaced."

But Ruppersberger spokesman Michael H. Davis said her term expired last summer and county law prohibits more than three consecutive terms.

"We kept her to have a transition with the new people on the board," he said. The choice of Kelly, he added, was designed to forestall criticism. "He actually has incredible credentials."

Kelly, who lives near Bellona Avenue and Charles Street in the county, helped draft the ordinances establishing landmark commissions in Baltimore and Baltimore County, and chaired the city commission for seven years.

He helped design several major Baltimore-area buildings during the 1960s and early 1970s, including the post office on East Fayette Street, Steuart Hill Elementary School in West Baltimore and the Towson library on York Road.

As the economy slackened in the mid-1970s, he said, his former firm, Tatar and Kelly, developed a specialty restoring the exterior of historic structures, such as the Washington Monument and the Peale Museum in Baltimore, the Field Museum in Chicago and the California Capitol.

Kelly said he received a phone call last week from Davis, who asked if he would serve on the commission. He said he doesn't know Davis or Ruppersberger. "It came as sort of a surprise," Kelly said.

His new role on the commission, Kelly said, is to help ensure that positions don't harden to the point that communication is difficult between preservationists and county government. "I think the main thing is [that Ruppersberger] wants to make sure it isn't hard-line on both sides," he said.

The commission will select a new chairman or chairwoman when it meets Thursday.

Pub Date: 1/02/98

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