Condominium developers reach settlement in accessibility suit; Perry Hall housing units said to violate federal law


Developers of a Perry Hall condominium project have agreed to pay nearly a half-million dollars for repairs to settle a lawsuit claiming the project was built without accommodations for wheelchairs.

Martin Dyer, associate director of Baltimore Neighborhoods Inc., said yesterday that developers of Red Fox Farms agreed to the settlement after a federal judge ruled that they were in violation of federal requirements to build the condos with adequate ramps, curb cuts, wide doorways and other designs to aid the use of wheelchairs.

BNI, which has been suing apartment and condo owners for 16 years over racial, disability and parental discrimination, sued the Red Fox Farms developers in 1996, said Dyer.

The settlement took place this week as a trial was to begin in U.S. District Court to decide what, if any, damages the developers should pay.

The developers of the project, located off Gunview Road, west of Bel Air Road, are Sterling Leppo, Sterling Properties Associates IV, Red Fox Farms Development Group and Sterling Construction and Management Corp.

Robert L. Ferguson Jr., attorney for Leppo, said the condominium project was being planned and built when the law protecting the disabled took effect in 1991.

The lack of access for wheelchairs in the construction "was an unfortunate mistake. .it was a responsible settlement," Ferguson said.

Dyer said that after BNI inspected the project, the group found that "at every unit, every building, were steps leading to a common entrance, which is a clear violation" of the 1991 federal law requiring that multifamily housing be wheelchair-accessible, he said.

Other problems included a lack of curb cuts that would allow wheelchairs to move from parking lots to the buildings.

Most of the settlement money will be put into an escrow account for repairs at the condominiums.

Of the 70 lawsuits BNI has filed over the years for discrimination, many have been over handicapped-accessibility because, Dyer said, "they are the most discriminated against people in this country because there is no housing for them."

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