Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh didn’t obtain all the necessary permits for renovations to a newly purchased home and has not resolved the matter, despite the head of the city’s housing department presenting her two years ago with steps for bringing the project into compliance with historic preservation rules and fire codes.
Pugh bought the house in the 3400 block of Ellamont Road in the city’s Ashburton neighborhood just days after being sworn in as mayor in December 2016, and began renovating it in early 2017.
Housing officials said Tuesday that much of the work was done without required permits or the necessary approval of the city’s historic preservation commission.
The housing department and a city environmental control board have issued $2,500 in fines and penalties over the unapproved work and they remain unpaid, said Tammy Hawley, a spokeswoman for the department.
Steven D. Silverman, Pugh’s lawyer, said in an email that, “The mayor is working to cure any deficiencies related to the renovation of this property.”
In February 2017, a man named Michael Miller received a building permit to replace 10 interior doors at the property and make changes to four basement windows. The same day, a separate permit was granted for electrical, heating and plumbing work.
But an inspector, acting on what Hawley said was an anonymous complaint, issued a citation to Miller on March 15, 2017, saying other work at the Ashburton house was done “without or beyond the scope of permit.”
The inspector issued an initial citation to Miller, writing that windows were altered without the proper authorization from the Commission for Historical and Architectural Preservation and that other work was done without “proper inspections.”
In April 2017, a senior official at the housing department wrote a two-page memo to Michael Braverman, then director of the Baltimore City Department of Housing and Community Development, outlining a “compliance path forward.”
The memo, which Hawley said was written so Braverman could raise the issues with the mayor, describes 18 steps Pugh needed to take with the historic preservation commission and other agencies regarding work on a deck and porch, the replacement of windows and doors, and the electrical, heating and plumbing work.
"None of those steps have been taken,” Hawley said. “None of those actions have occurred.”
A second-story deck required a public hearing before being approved and Hawley said the commission can order the mayor to take down the deck or change it.
Hawley said that Miller has told the department that he takes legal responsibility for not obtaining the right permits.
Miller could not be reached for comment.
The permit applications, business and other records list the same address in Columbia for Miller and his companies.
Pugh — who took leave as Baltimore’s mayor this week amid a scandal over selling her self-published children’s books to the University of Maryland Medical System while on its board — is a longtime resident of the Ashburton neighborhood. She bought a house on Dennlyn Road in 1998.
She bought the 2,400-square-foot Ellamont Road house a few blocks away for $117,500; the property’s value is assessed for tax purposes at $194,000. Property records show she bought it without using a mortgage.
Pamela King, one of a group of siblings who sold the house to Pugh, said her aging mother lived there but needed to move into an assisted living facility. King said the home needed significant repairs and Pugh’s offer was the best they received.