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Apartment building developer blinks as opposition mounts

Hampden residents are fighting mad over a proposal to build a three-story, 12-unit apartment building on Roland Avenue.

And they appear to have succeeded in slowing the proposed project.

Remodeler Eric Dashner is seeking a Baltimore City zoning variance to expand behind a building known as "the green house," at 3849 Roland Ave., south of The Turnover Shop.

A zoning board hearing is set for March 6 at 1 p.m., in City Hall.

But Dashner on Monday night missed his second community meeting in as many days to discuss the project.

On Saturday, he did not attend a meeting convened by Baltimore City Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke, who opposes his plans.

On Monday, he canceled a scheduled presentation to the Hampden Community Council and told community leaders he would postpone the hearing before the city zoning board.

"The developer has backed out at the last minute," George Peters, Jr., chairman of the community council's zoning committee, told an audience of about 40 people, some of whom had come to hear about the project.

Dashner could not be reached for comment.

Dashner wants to bump out the back of the building and build an addition for eight apartments, according to Clarke, who is leading the opposition.

The existing two-family building would be converted into four apartments, Clarke said during the meeting Saturday.

Dashner does not own the property, known in the neighborhood as "the green building," but has an option to buy it, pending zoning board approval of his plans, Clarke said.

Pleasant Place complains

Neighbors say expansion would overwhelm parking and traffic on narrow Pleasant Place, a glorified alley that runs behind the building, parallel to Roland Avenue.

Pleasant Place is home to a block of painted-lady row houses.

Residents also say expansion would make it hard for emergency vehicles to navigate Pleasant Place.

Nearly 40 people attended the hastily arranged meeting Saturday, including Christina Schoppert, a resident of Pleasant Place and a staff attorney for the Hampden-based Community Law Center. Schoppert told residents she would represent them pro bono at the scheduled zoning hearing.

"I can't imagine 12 more cars coming down our street," she said.

"I'm here because I'm against it," Clarke said at the meeting in Roland Park Towers, a nearby high-rise apartment building for seniors.

Clarke has asked the Baltimore City Commission for Historical and Architectural Preservation to look at whether the property should be restored as a historic building. If CHAP agrees, that could make requirements for the exterior restoration of the building more stringent.

She also questioned whether Dashner's plans would violate the property's R-7 residential zoning.

The expanded building would be three stories, one of them underground, Clarke said. The building is currently two stories. She said it would converted from two apartments into four one-bedrooms, and the back of the building would be knocked out to create another eight apartments.

Peters, the zoning committee chairman, said Dashner's plans are plagued with problems, including a higher proposed density than allowed under R-7 zoning.

"We've gotten an overwhelming response of 'we don't want this,'" Peters said Monday.

'Move on'

Some residents Saturday suggested negotiating a compromise with Dashner to scale back the project.

But Turnover Shop owner Alice Ann Finnerty noted that she met with Dashner and he told her he needed a certain number of apartments to make a profit.

She said he asked her, "What can I do to make this a possibility?"

"And I said, 'I think you need to find another place and move on,'" Finnerty said.

She said Dashner still appeared determined to press on with the project.

No one is more worried about the potential expansion than Betty Graf, who was in the audience at both the Saturday and Monday meetings.

"It faces my house," said Graf, who lives in a house that her parents bought in 1960. "It faces my dining room."

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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