Bill would raise fine for razing historic edifice



Three Baltimore County councilmen have submitted a bill that would stiffen the penalty for demolishing historic structures without a permit.

People without a permit who demolish structures on the historic landmarks list now face a fine equal to the assessed value of the building but no greater than $100,000. Under the new proposal, violators would face the greater of $158,000 or the assessed value of the property. The minimum fine of $158,000 would increase each year by the average annual increase in county property values.

The bill was submitted less than a week after the demolition of the Elizabeth Gardner house in Hunt Valley, which was razed over the objections of preservationists.

That building would not have been affected by the proposed bill because it was not a historic landmark. But Councilman T. Bryan McIntire, a north county Republican, said the Gardner house demolition "served as a warning" that other property owners might find it economically prudent to demolish historic buildings, pay the fine and then sell the developable land.

Such an incident happened in 1999, McIntire said, when the demolition of a 145-year-old stone house in Cockeysville led to $3,000 in fines for its owners.

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