Renovations to Arbutus adult video store halted due to lack of permits

Renovations on the site at 5648 Southwestern Blvd. that had once housed Southwest Video and Adult Boutique have been brought to a halt as of April 8 after the county fined the owners for not having the required permits.

"They failed to obtain permits prior to commencing work. That is a code violation," said James Garland, code official for the Baltimore County Office of Permits, Approvals and Inspections, Monday afternoon.

Garland said on April 8 that he will cite the property owner, Southwest Video LLC, $200 per day for not having shown proof the business was using drawings from a licensed architect.

Garland said last week he had already issued three $1,000 fines to the business for the work being done without a permit.

The work included a wall being knocked down and a new counter installed along the length of the front of the building, according to Garland, who said he has monitored the Arbutus business for years.

Garland said the counter would be used to store coffee pots and that the store would be a coffee shop or cafe.

Glenn Barry, chief building inspector for Baltimore County, said last week that the permits required for electrical and plumbing work had not been obtained by the business prior to the start of construction.

Even after the request for the permits was received, however, it could not be granted because the owner still had an outstanding fine totaling $14,017.01, Barry said.

That fine was the result of a hearing in Annapolis in February, Garland said.

"The owner had come to apply for a permit," Barry said. "And the first time he came in, there was still a lien placed on the property for when it was the adult book store.

"That lien had to be paid before we could entertain him in applying for a new permit," he said.

That lien has since been paid, according to Garland.

Attorney Howard Schulman, who represented the property owner at the February hearing, did not return repeated requests for comment.

Garland said the business owner must also produce drawings of the proposed renovations as proof that a licensed architect is working on the job.

"Generally, the degree of work they perform, we could waive drawings and not require them to get a registered architect," Garland said.

"But, given the history of that building, we feel it necessary to adhere to the code in every small degree possible," he said.

The store has been cited for displaying too much adult material and for showing pornographic videos, which is an improper use of video booths on the property.

"Our final goal is to get compliance and make sure he doesn't repeatedly do things without permits," Garland said.

"If that doesn't wake him up and make him realize that he needs to follow the requirements of the local jurisdiction, that's sorry on him," Garland said.

Carol Mox, president of the Halethorpe Improvement Association, said that she has heard the business will reopen as a coffee shop.

"I think we're kind of taking a wait and see approach to wait and see if this business follows through on being a coffee shop," Mox said.

Mox said a coffee shop would be nice for the commuters riding the MARC train, given the store's proximity to the Halethorpe train station.

But, she said, she was unsure how the community would react, given the reputation the video store has in the area.

"I don't know that the community, I'm not sure they would be the patrons of that establishment," she said of its attraction for local coffee drinkers.

Residents have complained about activity at the video store, but Baltimore County Police have no record of arrests being made at the property.

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