Baltimore County

IG report: Baltimore County ‘appeared to give’ developer David Cordish special treatment over planned personal tennis facility

Baltimore County officials “appeared to give” prominent developer David Cordish preferential treatment when handling plans for an indoor tennis facility he wanted to build next to his Greenspring Valley home, an investigation released Tuesday by the county’s inspector general concluded.

The report by Inspector General Kelly Madigan said the county issued a building permit without requiring Cordish to go through a special hearing before an administrative law judge. However, county officials dispute that, saying a building permit was “never fully approved or issued.”


The facility was never built.

The inspector general’s report states that the county’s zoning review staff “uniformly were of the opinion” that the project would have required a hearing because its proposed size of roughly 15,000 square feet would be larger than Cordish’s residence.


The report cites 115 cases dating to the 1990s in which other county residents had to attend special hearings to build “accessory” structures, such as garages and sheds, that would exceed the size of their homes.

Also, the report says, the tennis project was given “priority review status” for its soil conservation plan at the request of the county’s development manager — allowing its plans to be reviewed ahead of 33 other projects. Priority review is typically granted only to projects that have some benefit to the community.

Administration officials and Cordish said the county never issued a building permit for the proposed project.

“The County refutes the Inspector General’s characterizations regarding the handling of this matter,” Olszewski spokeswoman Erica Palmisano said in a statement. “A building permit was never issued for this project, the project was never constructed, and no direction was ever given by any member of the County Executive’s staff to give priority treatment to this project.”

The Morning Sun

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County Administrative Officer Stacy Rodgers wrote in a formal response to the inspector general’s report that while the county’s former director of permits, approvals and inspections “approved the Zoning portion of the building permit application, not all approvals required for issuance of a building permit were obtained and the building permit itself was never fully approved or issued.”

A spokeswoman for Cordish offered this comment Tuesday: “Mr. Cordish hoped to build a tennis court for his family’s use, but to his disappointment, never received a building permit and abandoned the project last year.”

The inspector general found no evidence that County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr., a Democrat now seeking reelection, wanted to give the project priority review status “or intended for it to happen,” Madigan wrote.

The Baltimore Sun reported last year that Madigan’s office was investigating the role of Olszewski’s aides in advancing the “tennis barn” project.


Cordish’s neighbors requested a hearing, but their concerns “were not taken into account when deciding whether the Project should go to a Special Hearing,” Madigan’s report states.

Cordish filed a zoning petition for the project in early 2020, according to the inspector general report, which contains numerous email exchanges and other documents depicting the back-and-forth between the developer and county staffers.

“As can be seen from these emails and other emails referenced throughout this report, the Project occupied the time and attention of the Senior Staff and numerous other County employees for several months,” the report states.