Historic house's demolition irks official County permits chief says Notre Dame Sisters should 'pay a penalty'

January 28, 1998|By Jay Apperson | Jay Apperson,SUN STAFF

Angered that a law protecting historic structures was bypassed, Baltimore County's permits director vowed yesterday to seek fines in last week's demolition of a 19th-century house in Green Spring Valley.

Arnold Jablon, director of the county's Department of Permits and Development Management, also said he would require the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur -- owners of the now-demolished Maryvale Tenant House -- to seek after-the-fact approval for destruction of the house, because it was listed on the Maryland Historical Trust inventory.

"If I were judge, jury and executioner, and I could tar and feather people, I'd make them go out and rebuild the damn thing. That's how angry I am," Jablon said. "I want them to pay a penalty. There's got to be a penalty."

Jablon said that his staff erred in issuing a permit for Friday's demolition, but he said the volume of permits that are processed make occasional mistakes inevitable.

He said the onus for flagging the property as historic -- and requiring a public hearing on the demolition proposal -- falls on the owners, engineers and lawyers involved in the project.

'They knew'

"This was not a mistake by them, on the outside. They knew," Jablon said. "The Sisters can't sit in a shell and say they didn't know."

After the house was razed, Sister Jean McGlone of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur said the nuns believed that "everything had been legal and gone through the right processes." Attempts to obtain further comment from the order yesterday were unsuccessful.

Engineers at Daft McCune Walker, the Towson firm hired for the demolition, did not return phone calls seeking comment.

County officials said discussions with engineers on the project have shed little light on what went wrong.

"We've gotten no real justification other than the right hand didn't know what the left hand was doing," Jablon said.

The house, parts of which dated to at least 1850, was near Maryvale Preparatory School for Girls and also was known as Carlisle Tenant House.

Preservationists say the vacant white farmhouse celebrated the housing and lifestyle of Baltimore County's 19th-century working class. Peter Kurtze, of the Maryland Historical Trust, said the house was a contributing resource to Green Spring Valley's designation as a national historic district.

Demolition defended

But lawyers for the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur have said that the ramshackle house should have been razed because it was an unusable safety hazard.

The Maryvale House was on a 39-acre site covered by an environmental easement that prohibits it from being developed, said John Bernstein, director of the Maryland Environmental Trust.

A letter was to go out yesterday to the order, Jablon said. John R. Reisinger, the county's chief building engineer, said copies of the letter also would be sent to Daft McCune Walker and to Scottish Development Co., developers of the Westwicke residential community on land formerly owned by the order.

Jablon said the developers will have to amend their development plan, which did not show that the house would be demolished.

He added that he would press for filing code violations, which he said carry a fine of $200 a day. He could not estimate the potential penalty.

On Monday, Reisinger ordered stricter reviews of demolition permit requests. Jablon said his department will obtain the Maryland Historical Trust inventory list to allow reviewers to see whether a demolition permit application involves a historic site.

Pub Date: 1/28/98

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