Charles Village challenge of drugstore rejected

Residents say CVS plans threaten `book block'

September 01, 1999|By Jamie Stiehm | Jamie Stiehm,SUN STAFF

The zoning board rejected a challenge yesterday to the planned demolition of four townhouses in Charles Village to make way for a CVS drugstore and a 16-space parking lot at 25th and Charles streets.

About a dozen Charles Village residents protested the plan to demolish the vacant townhouses. They said they wanted to preserve the architectural and historical fabric of the neighborhood by persuading CVS to incorporate the buildings in the pharmacy's design.

It was the latest development in a conflict over the design of a proposed CVS pharmacy across the street from a Safeway supermarket on 25th Street between Maryland Avenue and Charles Street that opened two years ago. That part of 25th Street became known as the "book block" because several used bookstores set up shop there.

John Spurrier, president of the Charles Village Community Association, said the group is "bitterly opposed to the destruction of the buildings."

Douglas Armstrong, chairman of the Committee for Responsible Development on 25th Street, told the board that a municipal regulation states that an ordinance approved by the City Council and the mayor is needed to raze any building to make way for a parking lot in a commercial district.

David C. Tanner, the city's zoning administrator, took issue with Armstrong's interpretation and told the board that the rule was not intended to apply to projects such as a drugstore.

"Parking is not the primary use of the land, but accessory to the proposed new structure," Tanner said. "If the principal use is not parking, then the parking ordinance is not required."

In reaching their decision, zoning board members said they agreed with Tanner.

Stanley Fine, a lawyer for Robert Wetzler, who owns the land CVS plans to lease, said the city would come "to a dead halt" if the rule was applied to every planned parking lot with three or more spaces in commercial districts.

Fine said CVS, a Rhode Island-based chain, had made a "good-faith attempt" to design a distinctive urban model.

Fine said the cost of the project could exceed $1 million.

Last night, Armstrong said he did not know if his group would pursue an appeal in Circuit Court.

"I'm not opposed to CVS coming into the neighborhood," Armstrong said, "as long as they develop in a more architecturally appropriate way."

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