Dispute over museum's expansion now in court

Neighbors oppose plans for $5.5 million addition

March 16, 2003|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,SUN STAFF

An Anne Arundel County judge is expected to decide within a few days whether work on a $5.5 million addition to the Banneker-Douglass Museum can take place without permits issued by Annapolis government.

Lawyers for three levels of government argued Friday in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court that city building and grading permits, which require approval by the city's Historic Preservation Commission, are not needed.

But owners of a law office across the street challenged that, contending in part that the planned $5.5 million addition is an architectural misfit in the neighborhood.

The African-American history and culture museum is housed in a former Gothic-style church of about 9,000 square feet, and the planned addition is nearly 12,000 square feet. Officials held a ceremony for the state project last month, but ground has not been broken because Thomas McCarthy Jr., and his wife, Jessica, received a temporary court order to stop it.

Lawyer Julie Hallam contended the state is exempt from local regulations and that, even though the museum is on county-owned land, a 99-year lease has the effect of making the state the owner. County and city lawyers agreed. The work must get started by April 6 to meet contract terms with the builder.

Thomas McCarthy Sr., however, said that while ordinary city zoning rules do not apply to the addition, the permits and approval from the Historic Preservation Commission are needed. The state's process of architectural review does not apply, he argued.

Judge Philip T. Caroom said he will rule this week.

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