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Board must rehear plan to demolish historic house 1994 ordinance cited in denying the owner's request does not apply


The county Board of Appeals must rehear a woman's plan to demolish a 125-year-old Brooklyn Park home and may not consider a 1994 ordinance aimed at preventing the demolition, a state appeals court ruled yesterday.

The Court of Special Appeals ruled that Georgia O. Clift must present her proposal to the county appeals board a second time because the board considered the wrong ordinance when it approved the demolition of her Ballman-Gischel House on April 7, 1995.

The court said that the board should not have considered a 1994 ordinance aimed at preventing destruction of historic homes because it was not enacted until two months after Clift had applied for her demolition permit.

"We find nothing indicating that the County Council intended Bill Number 105-94 to be applied retroactively," the court said in an unsigned, unpublished ruling.

Thomas A. Pavlinic, Clift's lawyer, said the ruling clears the way for demolition at the 10-acre site between Ballman Avenue and Patrick Henry Drive, which is zoned for five homes per acre.

But Pavlinic said it may be another six months before work begins at the site because the permit must be reconsidered by the appeals board.

The house has been vacant since 1985, has no running water, heat or electricity, has extensive water damage from a leaky roof and every window is broken, he said. But it was placed on the Maryland Inventory of Historic Places by county officials in 1985 without Clift's knowledge or consent, Pavlinic said.

The ordinance prohibits demolition of any structure listed on the inventory unless it "threatens public health or safety or denies the owner every economically viable use of the property," according to court records.

Pavlinic said the ordinance was aimed unfairly at his client.

"Even though we have to go back to the board, we feel good about this ruling because this is what I've been saying all along, that the county passed an ordinance under fraudulent pretenses," Pavlinic said.

Robert Pollock, senior assistant county attorney, said the 1994 law was aimed at preserving historic sites like Clift's house that are listed on the Maryland Inventory of Historic Properties.

"Her property may have been a catalyst for the ordinance, but it applied to other properties as well," he said.

He said the ordinance remains in effect for other historic properties.

Clift, a fourth-generation descendant of Henry Ballman, the original owner, has been trying to demolish the structure since July 29, 1994, when she applied for a permit.

But Robert J. Dvorak, then the director of Planning and Code Enforcement, notified Clift's lawyer on Sept. 1, 1994, that issuing the permit "would effectively subvert county law."

When the board of appeals approved the demolition in 1995, the county filed suit in Circuit Court to prevent it.

The appeals board approval was upheld by Judge H. Chester Goudy Jr. in November, which prompted the county's appeal to the Court of Special Appeals.

The appeals court denied a Pavlinic request for sanctions against the county lawyers. He repeatedly has accused county officials of proceeding in bad faith in the case.

"I don't expect the county to act in good faith, I expect nothing but bad faith from Anne Arundel County," Pavlinic said yesterday.

Pollock said the county's aim is to balance the interests of property owners against the need to preserve historic sites.

"It's not a question of bad faith," Pollock said. "He [Pavlinic] just doesn't like what the results have been."

Pub Date: 12/11/96

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