Relief after razing is delayed

Activists to study 4 Annapolis buildings

November 24, 1999|By Laura Sullivan | Laura Sullivan,SUN STAFF

Having held off the bulldozers and wrecking balls, Annapolis preservationists began a campaign yesterday to determine the value of four buildings targeted for demolition -- and a temporary parking lot.

The city's decision to postpone demolition offers time to study the buildings, which might have historical value, and to evaluate plans for the West Street site, they said.

"We're definitely relieved, and now the hard work begins," said Elizabeth B. Tune, preservation outreach coordinator for the Historic Annapolis Foundation, which is examining the site. "We just want to make sure we have all the facts."

The delay in razing those buildings and three others nearby will cost the city more than $10,000.

Bill Finagin Jr., president of National Wrecking Corp., which is under contract to raze the buildings, said he will charge the city $10,000 to cover the cost of hiring extra workers and hauling his equipment to the site Monday, only to be told to pack up.

News of those charges angered city administrators, who called the delay "a huge waste of taxpayer money," city spokesman Thomas W. Roskelly said.

On Monday, faced with the preservationists' opposition, the city council halted the demolition of the seven buildings for at least a month. Many residents complained the project was a surprise to almost all of the aldermen and some city officials.

"The public wasn't informed, the aldermen weren't informed," said architect and preservation activist Terrence T. Averill. "You don't just make these carte blanche decisions and then expect the public to just accept it when everything's gone. Something doesn't smell right."

He said the biggest fear is that the buildings will be torn down without plans for the site besides the temporary 89-space lot and vague notions of a parking garage. The city has yet to commission a design for a parking garage for the site with room for retail and office space.

Some residents saw a potential conflict of interest. Finagin's father, William B. Finagin, who has complained about parking problems, owns the property at 175 West St., adjacent to the site of the proposed parking structure.

Yesterday, Bill Finagin dismissed those concerns by residents.

"I don't see any conflict," he said. "I bid on the job in an open bid, just like everyone else. It just happens to be one of those chance things where the site is next to his property. The parking garage really doesn't affect him at all."

Roskelly also dismissed it as a "rather interesting coincidence."

"It sounds like a conspiracy theory, but it's not," he said, noting that Finagin's bid was $12,000 less than any other. "That project was put out to bid. There are those who think the mayor is trying to pull a fast one, but this project has been on the books, and the mayor wants to stand by his commitment to build a parking garage."

Roskelly said that in addition to their frustration over the additional $10,000 cost, city officials are at a loss to understand why the project has been stalled.

"Is it because of fear of the future or fear of what we might be trying to do?" he asked. "The council is the one who put this project in the budget."

W. Minor Carter, president of the Ward One Residents Association, which also opposed the demolition, blamed the city administration for the $10,000 cost to taxpayers.

"This is a result of a lack of communication between the mayor and residents and the city council," Carter said. "Everyone with the exception of the mayor and the city administration had one thing in common: They didn't know what was going on. If the mayor had communicated with the city council and the citizens, all of this could have been averted."

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