Owner wages building battle Man to sue Annapolis over demolition delay

August 17, 1998|By Dan Thanh Dang | Dan Thanh Dang,SUN STAFF

As contractors tear down the remains of a fire-ravaged building today, its furious property owner vowed to continue his battle with the city of Annapolis for delaying his demolition plans after the Dec. 9 blaze.

Ronald B. Hollander blamed "a political agenda" for eight contentious months of fighting city officials who wanted to preserve the two-story brick facade -- Annapolis' first Jewish department store. Hollander said he was finally vindicated last week when the administration relented and ordered demolition of the facade, which was unsafe.

Crews began work Thursday and Friday to take the building down, but the actual demolition was to begin at 7 a.m. today with no street closures, city officials said.

"I'm suing them," said Hollander, who has been videotaping the start of demolition as workers pushed on the walls with their hands and bricks fell to the ground. "This is all the fault of Mayor [Dean L.] Johnson. He bowed to historic preservation wishes."

Safety was the reason Hollander said he wanted to get rid of the building. Preservationists had said the building at 184-186 Main St. could be saved if properly protected.

Hollander says he wants to sue the city for $1,000 per day of revenue he lost.

His lawyers say no suit will be filed soon, but Hollander made clear that demolition will not end the battle over his Main Street building.

That fight also could delay construction of a new three- or four-story office and retail building Hollander plans for the site.

Preservation vs. safety

Trouble began after Hollander applied for a demolition permit in December. At first, city officials declared the 1899 building unsafe and said it could be demolished. After fierce opposition from preservationists, they backed off and denied the permit.

Historic Annapolis Foundation Inc. and a local resident then sued Hollander to prevent him from razing the building without an evaluation and without approval from the Historic Preservation Commission (HPC). The panel must approve all demolition and construction within the Historic District.

Although Hollander's attorneys argued that the cracked facade was a hazard even with city efforts to brace it, the HPC denied Hollander's demolition request because new building plans for the site were not submitted.

Hollander countersued. That case has been scheduled for a hearing Aug. 25 in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court.

Bill disputed

Hollander says he'll see the city in court before he pays the $39,484.27 bill that officials sent a couple weeks ago for an engineer and preservationist who helped brace the deteriorating facade.

"They have delayed my reconstruction," Hollander said. "I have to do all my plans over once more. I have incurred a great expense because of the delays by the city. I am still going to move forward as quickly as possible on the new building, but I am disturbed that the city would interfere with a property owner like this."

City officials were not panicked by Hollander's threats to take them to court.

"He can sue, no doubt about that," Johnson said. "We get a suit per day in the city for various things. But city operations in this incident have been totally within the demands of the city code.

"As far as I'm concerned, we're closing the door to something that happened and we're trying to open a new door to a new structure on the site," Johnson added.

Pub Date: 8/17/98

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