Razing of historic Balto. Co. house prompts order for stricter reviews

January 27, 1998|By Jay Apperson | Jay Apperson,SUN STAFF

Amid growing criticism, Baltimore County officials ordered yesterday stricter reviews of demolition permit requests and weighed potential penalties against developers who razed a historic house in the Greenspring Valley.

Two top supervisors in the county's permit office will be required to review all demolition permits to check that no historic properties are affected, county building engineer John R. Reisinger said yesterday. He would not comment on potential fines for the developers.

His order came three days after the 19th-century Maryvale Tenant House on Greenspring Valley Road was razed -- and Reisinger acknowledged that the county mistakenly issued a demolition permit.

The episode involving the house near the Maryvale Preparatory School for Girls is the latest in a series illustrating shortcomings in the county's permit review process, said C. Victoria Woodward, a lawyer representing historic preservationists.

She said she warned county officials months ago to be on guard for a permit application to raze the building, which had for years been at the center of debate between preservationists and owners.

"Permits seem to be issued so arbitrarily and without oversight," Woodward said. "I would hope that someone would come forward and test the law with respect to damages and penalties. The historic properties are irreplaceable once they've been torn down."

In December, the county admitted its mistake in issuing building permits to renovate historic buildings at the controversial Hayfields golf community without the approval of the Landmarks Preservation Commission. Earlier, the county issued a permit to demolish the Samuel Owings House -- and then briefly suspended construction on an office tower there because the development plan did not say the house was to be razed.

In May, Woodward wrote to county officials and reminded them that the Maryvale Tenant House was listed on a Maryland Historical Trust inventory -- meaning that a public hearing was required before a demolition permit could be issued.

Preservationists have said the vacant farmhouse -- parts of which date to 1850 -- celebrated the housing and lifestyle of the 19th-century working class.

Pub Date: 1/27/98

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