Congregation told to halt unauthorized tree cutting

Beth Tfiloh construction in Glyndon halted after neighbor complains

Baltimore City/county

November 04, 1999|By David Nitkin | David Nitkin,SUN STAFF

Responding to a call from a concerned neighbor, Baltimore County environmental officials have halted work at the Glyndon campus of Beth Tfiloh Congregation after a construction crew chopped down about 30 trees without permission.

"This is an area they should not have touched," said George C. Perdikakis, director of the county Department of Environmental Protection and Resource Management. "By getting the tip, we got there and we reduced the damage. People are encouraged to report these kinds of incidents to us."

The congregation is building a 50-space parking lot on its 40-acre campus in the 400 block of Central Ave., but apparently diverted workers to a wooded area about 900 feet from the lot and asked them to remove trees.

County officials received the tip Monday -- they have not identified the caller -- and an inspector visited the site Tuesday, ordering construction in the area to stop.

The contractors told the inspector that they were preparing the land for a soccer field. But as of yesterday, the congregation had not asked for a building permit. A lawyer for the congregation referred questions to Beth Tfiloh executive administrator Bernard Suffel, who did not return two messages left at his office yesterday.

The temple likely would avoid penalties if it applies for and receives a permit, said Candace L. Szabad, supervisor of field operations for the environmental protection department.

County code allows property owners to remove trees from up to 1 acre of their land without permission, as long as the species are not protected by the state and stumps are left in the ground.

Officials said the congregation removed trees on 3 acres and was preparing to eliminate the stumps. The area was not heavily wooded, and the largest trunk measured 15 inches in diameter, inspectors said.

This is the second time in the past seven months that Beth Tfiloh has run afoul of county construction rules. In April, the congregation was ordered to halt the demolition of a dilapidated house and garage at its main Old Court Road location because the work began without a permit.

When the demolition continued despite the order, the congregation was fined $1,500.

The Glyndon campus was recently purchased from the American Diabetes Association, which ran Camp Glyndon there. It is being used for Jewish preschool and after-school programs.

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