Howard County's Department of Planning and Zoning is investigating the destruction of a nonhistoric shed in the Ellicott City Historic District that was demolished without a permit or approval by the Historic District Commission, planning officials said yesterday.
Officials began investigating Thursday, when an anonymous complaint was filed. The complaint included a photograph taken Dec. 31 of construction vehicles demolishing the building, on 4.4 acres between Church Road and Sylvan Lane.
The department recommended the removal of the shed, built in the 1980s, because a planned three-house subdivision would put it too close to the property line, said George Beisser, who oversees zoning enforcement.
Howard County has two historic districts: Lawyers Hill in Elkridge and part of Ellicott City, which includes Main Street, Church Road and Court House Drive. Anyone constructing, demolishing or modifying the exterior of any building within these areas must apply to the commission for approval.
In an Oct. 29, 2001, letter to the developer, Land Design & Development Inc., the county asked the company to obtain a demolition permit or submit a certified letter stating that demolition had been completed.
A letter from Land Design & Development dated Dec. 16 states that the shed had been removed.
"It just slipped through everyone's mind" that a permit was required, said Donald R. Reuwer Jr., owner of Land Design & Development.
To demolish a building in a historic district, a developer would have to submit an application 15 days before the Historic District Commission meets the first Thursday of each month, according to county regulations. The penalty for such violations usually would be a civil citation, Beisser said, with a fine of $250 to $500 a day. He said the county is considering possible penalties against the developer.
Beisser, who also serves on the staff of the Historic District Commission, said the panel probably would have approved the shed for demolition, had an application been made.
Members of the Patapsco Heights Church Road Community Association, which opposes the subdivision, had been monitoring the Historic District Commission agenda for the past two to three months, looking specifically for any applications relating to this project, said Gary Segal, president of the group.
The residents believe that the proposed development is too dense and does not match the community.
It was disappointing that the demolition took place without permits, Segal said, because the group was trying to work with the developer.
"It sort of emptied the trust bank a little bit," Segal said.