Drugstore opposition wilts in wake of ruling

$2.5 million bond needed to delay demolition of rowhouses, judge says

October 06, 1999|By Tom Pelton | Tom Pelton,SUN STAFF

A judge's ruling this week might end efforts by neighborhood activists in Charles Village to block the demolition of century-old rowhouses on Charles Street for the construction of a CVS drugstore.

The Rhode Island-based chain plans to build a store at Charles and West 25th streets, but the effort has been opposed by a group of residents demanding the preservation of the six Victorian-style townhouses.

Baltimore Circuit Judge Gary L. Strausberg said this week that he would grant the neighborhood group a temporary stay on the demolition to allow time for a lawsuit only if it posted a $2.5 million bond by Monday.

This means the organization, called the Committee for Responsible Development on 25th St., probably won't be able to continue the legal fight because it doesn't have the $25,000 payment required to obtain the bond, said Douglas Armstrong, chairman of the organization.

The purpose of a bond -- not uncommon in such lawsuits -- is to reimburse developers of the project for the cost of a delay if the community organization loses in court, according to lawyers familiar with the requirement.

"I think this ruling is very unfortunate because it puts us in the position of having to pay to have access to a fair outcome. And there is no way we could pay this kind of money," said Clara King, president of the South Charles Village Community Association.

"The developers apparently don't care about the ill will of the community toward this project," Armstrong said. "They are talking about destroying six townhouses that are still an asset to the community."

If group can't raise money, CVS will be able to proceed with plans to replace rowhouses once used as bookstores with a store and 16-space parking lot.

"This is good news in the sense that now we can move forward," said Domenic Schiavone, a real estate manager for CVS. "This is not going to be a suburban-style CVS. It's going to be a very pretty building, and it will fit right into the urban streetscape."

The $1 million store, when completed in April or May, would occupy two stories, with 8,900 square feet of floor space and a clock tower. It would employ about 30 people, Schiavone said.

Schiavone said CVS tried to work with the community organization to preserve at least the facades of the old townhouses, but finally decided preservation would be too expensive.

The Baltimore zoning board rejected the neighborhood organization's challenge last month to the planned demolition.

Stanley S. Fine, attorney for Robert Wetlzer, who hopes to lease the land to CVS, said neither he nor his client wanted to comment on the judge's decision.

Pub Date: 10/06/99

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