Razing of historic house called mistake Permit issued without public hearing, official says

January 24, 1998|By Jay Apperson | Jay Apperson,SUN STAFF

A historically protected 19th century house in the Green Spring Valley was razed yesterday after Baltimore County officials mistakenly issued a demolition permit without conducting a required public hearing, the county's chief building engineer said.

The demolition of the protected building -- known as the Carlisle Tenant House or the Maryvale Sisters' House -- could lead to civil or criminal penalties, said John R. Reisinger, the county's building engineer. The building "isn't something you just tear down," Reisinger said.

The house, parts of which date back at least as far as 1850, had for years been at the center of debate between preservationists and its owner, the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur.

Preservationists have said the vacant white farmhouse celebrated the housing and lifestyle of 19th century Baltimore County's working class and helped justify the valley's standing as a nationally registered historic district.

Lawyers for its owners have said the ramshackle house was a safety hazard that should be razed. They say it was unusable because of a failed septic system.

Last night, Sister Jean McGlone of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur said, "Our understanding is that everything had been legal and gone through the right processes."

The vacant white farmhouse was on Greenspring Valley Road near Maryvale Preparatory School for Girls.

As part of a plan to raise money to support the order's aging nuns, the sisters have sought to sell parts of the property for development. Plans were floated to demolish the tenant house in 1992 as part of the planned Westwicke housing development. But because the house was listed with the Maryland Inventory of Historic Properties, developers had to obtain a waiver from a county hearing officer to raze the house.

Reisinger said a permit mistakenly was issued yesterday for the demolition. He identified the applicant as BCB Construction and said the application incorrectly failed to note the house's historic status. He identified the project's engineer as the Towson firm Daft McCune Walker.

Late yesterday afternoon, Reisinger said he had not obtained a full explanation for the razing.

Attempts to obtain comment last night from the construction company or the engineering firm were unsuccessful.

Reisinger said county officials will continue to investigate the matter next week. The parties involved could face civil fines or criminal penalties, he said. Officials will also examine the possibility of requiring the house to be restored, Reisinger said, but he called that prospect unlikely.

"We should not have issued the permit," he said.

It was the latest in a series of controversial demolitions involving historic properties in Baltimore County. In 1996, the 1767 Samuel Owings House in Owings Mills was leveled to make way for an office building. In December, 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.

Pub Date: 1/24/98

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