Kingsley Park wins HUD extension

Owner of run-down Essex apartments gets time to plan redevelopment

December 03, 2003|By Joe Nawrozki | Joe Nawrozki,SUN STAFF

The owner of Kingsley Park Apartments in Essex, where federal and Baltimore County inspectors found scores of housing code violations during three recent visits, has been given a four-month extension to formulate a redevelopment plan.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development extended a Nov. 30 deadline to March 31, county officials said yesterday. That represents the third extension that the landlord, Landex Corp., and its president, Judith S. Siegel, have been given to propose a revitalization plan for the World War II-era apartment complex.

The apartments are home to more than 300 people, who live in what Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski has described as "deplorable conditions."

"Our inspections make it clear that Kingsley Park offers substandard livability for the families," County Executive James T. Smith Jr. said yesterday.

"We are very disappointed that HUD has chosen to extend their contract," Smith added. "We want to see an end to project-based housing for the betterment of the families in Kingsley Park and the residents of Essex."

Smith's predecessor, Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, was critical of HUD's decision, which will keep the mostly poor tenants in Kingsley Park through the winter despite many complaints about the heating system.

"The owner of Kingsley Park is the biggest and final impediment to the revitalization of Essex and Middle River," Ruppersberger said in a telephone interview.

HUD's extension, he said, "shows that the bureaucrats in Washington are totally out of touch with reality."

A HUD spokesman in Washington did not return a telephone call seeking comment on the agency's decision.

Late last month, a sudden inspection by county investigators at Kingsley Park uncovered housing infractions in nearly 150 units and several more serious violations, including raw sewage in basements.

In October, two surprise inspections by federal investigators found widespread housing violations, including rodent and roach infestation, potentially dangerous electrical problems, faulty toilets and rotting floors.

Siegel's attorneys have said repairs would be made. She has also prepared a plan for HUD that would extend project-based housing at Kingsley Park - essentially keeping it as is - for at least 15 more years.

The complex is in the area where nearly $800 million in county and state funds have been spent to revitalize a decaying section of the county.

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