Couple suing Sykesville for $3 million over commission's restoration rules

February 09, 2000|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

Sykesville faces a $3 million lawsuit over issues surrounding the town's Historic District Commission.

In a suit filed in Carroll Circuit Court, Joy and Brad Baker say they were harassed when they tried to remodel their Main Street house. The couple has asked for damages that would be double the town's operating budget.

The suit comes in the midst of the town's efforts to revive its downtown and restore its 19th-century clapboard storefronts. Its historic commission, a panel of volunteers appointed by the Town Council, has banned vinyl from its historic district, which includes most of Main Street.

The policy has polarized longtime residents and landlords in the downtown business section. Many property owners say the policy places a financial burden on them. Vinyl siding lasts about 15 years; wood siding must be repainted more frequently.

The town issued two citations to the Bakers in 1997 after they had contractors replace wooden windows with vinyl ones. When the Bakers refused to pay $800 in fines, the town sued them in District Court. In December 1998, that court upheld the Bakers, ruling that Sykesville had failed to prove a violation of its restoration guidelines.

The court battle and the town's "willful, deliberate and knowing acts of negligence" caused the couple "substantial financial and emotional damages," the new lawsuit says.

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