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Howard County again eyes building's demolition

Howard County officials have delayed plans to demolish this building the county owns on Scaggsville Road.
Howard County officials have delayed plans to demolish this building the county owns on Scaggsville Road. (Melanie Dzwonchyk /)

Howard County officials are revisiting a proposal to demolish a building at the intersection of Old Scaggsville and All Saints roads that has been a grocery store, a house and a beauty parlor, among other uses, in its more than century-long existence.

The building, a two-story structure of pinkish tan brick, is considered by many in the community to be an eyesore, and the county has eyed its demolition for years in the hopes of clearing the sightline at the intersection of the two roads, where a sharp curve forces drivers turning right from All Saints Road to move past a stop sign in order to see oncoming traffic.

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"When you're coming down All Saints [Road], you can't see around until the very last moment," said Kristofer Singleton, a project manager for the Department of Public Works. "It's not as safe as it should be."

But last December, when county officials announced via press release that they had decided to knock the building down, nearby residents and Councilwoman Jen Terrasa, who represents the North Laurel community where it's located, protested, arguing they hadn't been asked for input. The plan was put on hold.

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The scheduled demolition of a Laurel building was halted Monday after local residents complained the county did not provide them with enough advance notice or opportunity to discuss the plan.

This time, Howard officials are soliciting public feedback before announcing any plans. On Nov. 23, they held an open house to discuss the proposed demolition.

Tony Galotta, who lives at the corner of Old Scaggsville Road and Superior Avenue just down the street, said he'd welcome a demolition – "the sooner the better." He's got bigger concerns about the roadway: In particular, danger from the cars that pass his house everyday. Headed downhill, drivers reach speeds of 50 to 60 miles per hour on a road that has a speed limit of 30 mph, he says.

"I can't let my kids play in the front yard because of traffic concerns," Galotta said. His solution would be to build a three-way stop at the intersection of All Saints and Old Scaggsville to force traffic to slow down. The county has previously discussed building a circle there as a traffic calming measure.

Officials haven't yet made any decisions about improvements to the road, Singleton said. A design study is underway and should be finished by the end of the year.

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Other longtime residents said they don't have any special allegiance to the building on the corner, but hate to see it go without what they consider a thorough vetting of its history by the county.

"There are only about three historic buildings in the area that haven't been demolished," said Jacquie Sentell, who's lived in High Ridge for more than 50 years. "I think it's a shame that people won't be able to see what was there 100 years ago, except a plaque."

Brent Loveless, of North Laurel, said his research on the building shows it used to sit on a 250-acre plantation. While tax records indicate the current structure was built in 1900, Loveless believes its foundation might date from earlier, and could have been a slave quarters.

"Is it a slave house from the 1830s? We don't know. The core thing we know is it's going away," Loveless said. "I will admit that it's an ugly building, but regardless, the community deserves to have that research done and have it presented to them."

Singleton said an architectural historian had conducted a survey of the house and cleared it for demolition. The historian "poked holes in the various walls," he added. "They said it was a mishmash."

Today, the building is boarded up to protect against trespassers, and has been vacant for more than a year. Tax records show the county bought the property from Souder Builders Inc. in May 2013 for $325,000.

The Howard County Council on Monday voted to give County Executive Allan Kittleman permission to sell a property at a prominent corner along Route 1, which had been targeted for redevelopment under former County Executive Ken Ulman.

Singleton said officials hope to demolish the building before the end of the year. The process would take about a week and would likely require a single-lane closure during demolition. Once the building is gone, the plan would be to repave the lot with grass and relocate the stop sign closer to the intersection.

Residents who missed the county's open house can still send comments to Singleton at ksingleton@howardcountymd.gov.

Correction

A zoning digest item from Nov. 12 incorrectly identified the subject of a recent appeal over land use and standing on Snowden River Parkway. A case before the state's Court of Special Appeals on Nov. 10 was protesting the Howard County Board of Appeals' decision to deny standing to local business owners in an appeal of a redline decision involving the Minstrel Crossing II subdivision near the intersection of Gerwig Lane and Minstrel Way.

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