Landmarks commission asks council to protect buildings omitted from bill

Panel says lawmakers trying to undermine it

March 12, 2001|By Joan Jacobson | Joan Jacobson,SUN STAFF

Baltimore County's Landmarks Preservation Commission is asking the County Council to reconsider its decision not to protect from demolition three buildings the commission considers historic.

In a "position paper" to be presented at the council work session tomorrow, the commission criticizes the council for removing the three buildings -- two in the Catonsville area, one in Essex-- from a landmarks-preservation bill.

The move to omit the buildings from the bill "seriously degrades the integrity and purpose of the Baltimore County Landmarks Preservation Commission in carrying out its lawful duties," states the paper, which was unanimously approved by the 12 commission members present at a meeting Thursday night.

The commission also accused County Executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger of eliminating the properties from the final bill.

But his spokeswoman, Elise Armacost, said: "Dutch did not leave them off. He has taken no position on these three properties. This is an issue between the County Council and the landmarks commission."

She said a reference printed on the bill stating its introduction "by request of county executive" was in error. "Dutch's name does not belong there" and will be removed, Armacost said.

By law, the list of recommended properties should be sent from the commission to the county executive for review, then to the council for a final vote.

In their paper, the landmarks commissioners accused Ruppersberger and the council of undermining their mission to protect historic properties. The action "sets a dangerous precedent in carrying out a coherent and fair public policy related to historic preservation," the paper states.

Commission Vice Chairman David Goldsmith, who drafted the paper, said Friday that the county executive and council should have included the properties in a final bill, to be voted up or down.

He said the commission will also seek a legal opinion from the county attorney's office on the status of the three properties.

County law protects buildings from demolition from when they are recommended for protection to the council's final vote, he said.

But in this case, because the buildings were eliminated before a final vote, they are in limbo and "according to our interpretation, they're still protected," Goldsmith said.

One of the three buildings eliminated from the bill is the A. D. Anderson house on Rolling Road in Catonsville, which was bought in the summer by Cathy Hughes, owner of the Radio One media empire.

Hughes has opposed preserving the nearly century-old mansion, saying she might want to tear it down.

Another is the Galloway-Dickey House at 5153 Baltimore National Pike.

Both buildings were omitted by Councilman Stephen G. Sam Moxley, a Catonsville Democrat, who has said it is his prerogative to omit them, especially because the owners opposed preservation.

The third building is Academy Hall at 1527 Old Eastern Ave. in Essex. The building, previously used as a political and social hall, was omitted by Dundalk Democrat John Olszewski Sr.

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