The developer of an upscale waterfront townhouse complex will not be fined for defying a stop-work order or violating height restrictions, a city housing spokesman said yesterday.
But HarborView developer Richard Swirnow was forced to pay the city more than $10,000 in permitting fees so that new plans -- replacing those previously approved by city officials -- could be authorized and construction could continue, housing department spokesman David Tillman said.
"The city shares some responsibility," Tillman said. City Housing Commissioner Paul T. Graziano "doesn't see much value or sense in fining a developer for something the city approved."
After Federal Hill activists complained for more than a year that the townhouses violated height limits, city officials responded to the problem last week by issuing a stop- work order until the plans could be brought into compliance. Builders ignored the command even after a cease-and-desist order was issued two days later.
Planning Director Otis Rolley III approved amended plans for the homes Monday afternoon and gave his permission for construction to continue with the understanding that the developer would promptly obtain the permits, he said.
Although more than 30 of the finished townhouses are 4 feet too tall, they will not be altered, HarborView Vice President Frank Wise said. The developer tweaked plans for the remaining 80 homes by shrinking structures on the top floor, Wise said. The structures, once promoted as "penthouses" with wet bars were really just "hallways up to the roof," Wise said.
Wise first balked at paying $10,276 to the city permits office to get the amended plans approved. "It's just moving walls," Wise said yesterday afternoon. He hoped that the city would consider the new plan a minor change and charge him fee of $10 per page for revisions, a total of $70.
Twenty percent of the original permit fee was charged for the amendments, totaling $10,276, said Didi ElMenshawy, director of the permit office.
Wise relented after talking to Graziano yesterday, Tillman said. Representatives from the development company paid for the permits late yesterday. "The commissioner reminded the developer and Frank Wise that the most important thing was to get the permits," Tillman said.
City Councilman Edward Reisinger, who represents South Baltimore and has opposed the development, said that Swirnow should be punished for violating the stop-work order. He contacted the city solicitor, Ralph S. Tyler, by e-mail yesterday and asked him to analyze the legal ramifications of Swirnow's actions.
If action is not taken against Swirnow, Reisinger said, "This will open the flood gates to developers and contractors who do not respect the law and our process."