Path cleared to Tall Trees demolition

Ruling gives county voting rights on board

January 17, 2002|By Joe Nawrozki | Joe Nawrozki,SUN STAFF

A Baltimore County Circuit Court judge ruled yesterday that the county government is a voting member of the condominium association at the Villages of Tall Trees in Essex.

Judge Robert E. Cadigan's ruling opens the door for demolition of the apartment buildings on Old Eastern Avenue, a once-proud enclave for World War II-era workers that became a forlorn and violent reminder of better days.

The county wants to clear the site for a 50-acre public park, part of an ambitious east-side revitalization plan featuring new houses, a waterfront destination, the extension of Route 43 and streetscape improvements on Eastern Boulevard.

The county will notify the four remaining Tall Trees association members of a meeting at which officials will propose tearing down the 80 buildings the county owns. The county has been paying $24,000 a month in condominium fees on those properties.

The county has held the payments in escrow since October, when the county brought the legal action; officials agreed yesterday to pay back condominium fees and late charges.

"Basically, we'll need to change the association rules to allow the county to knock down the buildings," County Attorney Edward J. Gilliss said. "Once we do, we no longer will have to pay those monthly condominium fees or they will be drastically reduced."

Gilliss said notices of the association meeting will be mailed this week. The meeting will take place 15 to 45 days from the mailing date.

The association, known as the Council of Unit Owners, had argued the county did not have association voting rights because the government has condemnation authority and did not share common interest in the properties with other owners.

The members of the association are Edward M. Colwill, John Earl Lake, Brian E. Wright and Thomas S. Rafailides.

"The good news is we did recover the back condo fees owed to us by the county and we can resume paying for things like security and leaf pickup," Colwill said. "The bad news is Baltimore County government has gained control over our association."

The owners have refused to discuss their negotiations with the county or the deals they are seeking to sell their properties.

The county has been buying buildings at the Villages of Tall Trees - where there had been 37 owners - since April 2000. The county has spent $11.3 million for 80 properties; 25 properties remain in private hands.

Most of the Tall Trees buildings sit vacant and boarded up awaiting their appointment with the bulldozer.

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