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County bill would protect historic buildings; Structures would be saved during consideration of inclusion on register


Baltimore County Council members are proposing a bill to protect structures from demolition while the buildings are being considered for the county's historic register.

Council Chairman Kevin B. Kamenetz, a Democrat representing the Pikesville-Liberty Road corridor, said this week that the measure he is co-sponsoring would prevent properties from being bulldozed or altered while county officials decide whether to list them on the register.

The measure, discussed at a council work session Tuesday, follows a series of actions that have angered preservationists, including the razing of historic structures and the elimination of resident appeals to the county Board of Appeals of any changes to county-owned historic structures.

Preservationists were angered in 1996 when county officials issued a permit enabling the demolition of the historic Samuel Owings House, built in 1767, to make way for an office tower.

In 1997, a developer -- concerned that preservationists would interfere with plans for an assisted-living center -- was allowed to demolish a 190-year-old cabin near Sudbrook Park that was in a historic district.

Also, in 1998, the county permitted demolition of the Maryvale Tenant House in Brooklandville, which was on the Maryland Historical Trust list because parts of the house dated to 1850.

The bill, co-sponsored by Councilman T. Bryan McIntire, an Owings Mills Republican, specifies that once a structure is posted for possible inclusion on the historic register, the property may not be renovated or altered while the county's Landmark Preservation Commission, the county executive and the County Council consider the matter. The bill also imposes specific deadlines by which the county may act.

"This would give some certainty to the whole process," Kamenetz said.

Preservationists at the work session supported the measure, saying it might help reverse a trend toward destruction of historic properties.

"We're losing our legacy in this county," said Berchie Lee Manley, a former councilwoman fighting a county plan to transform the old Catonsville Middle School on Bloomsbury Avenue into a $6.8 million recreation center.

In other business at this week's work session, council members sharply questioned an administration proposal to award Towson University a $200,000 grant to help the school purchase the site of a former Crown service station at York Road and Burke Avenue, near the campus entrance.

Robert L. Hannon, executive director of the county's economic development office, said the price of $783,000 was non-negotiable because it is included in the terms of a lease negotiated years ago by the property owner, a New York investor, and Crown Central Petroleum, which has an option to buy the tract.

Hannon said the county wants the university to purchase the tract because it is a gateway to the Towson business district, and the purchase would allow installation of an attractive sign and landscaping. But several council members expressed concern about the parcel's price -- almost double the appraised value of the half-acre tract.

"What you're asking us to do is contribute to what sounds like a bad financial arrangement," McIntire said.

Both measures are to be voted on at the council's Feb. 1 meeting.

Pub Date: 1/28/99

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