Elkton Town Hall, April 27, 2011 – Town officials have scheduled a public hearing on a request from Raphael Santini, Esq., for a demolition permit at 124 – 124 1/2 E. Main Street in Elkton, after the Historic and Architectural Review (HARC) Board expressed concern that municipal officials were bypassing procedural requirements. The matter came up while the Maryland Historical Trust’s Cory R. Kegerise, was meeting with the panel to discuss how Elkton could strengthen its program. As the state preservation planner suggested development of “clear guidelines” to “increase accountability in the review process,” HARC member Mark Clark remarked “I don’t believe the commissioners want the world he’s describing.” “He’s exactly right,” town attorney Norman Wilson added.
As the exchange became extended, much of it involving remarks between Clark and Kegerise about preservation philosophies, legal obligations, local officials, town politics, the High Street Senior Apartments, and the role of Elkton’s Main Street program, the abstract subject turned to a practical HARC problem. Chairperson Paula Newton noted that 124 and 124 1/2 E. Main Street was being demolished, without being brought before the group as required by regulations.
“I was wondering if someone was going to bring that up” Clark declared as board members asked for additional information. “Several of our leadership want the building down because it’s leaning. I talked to the owner and told him he would have to bring it before the HARC committee, and he didn’t have a problem with it,” Jeanne Minner, the Elkton planner answered. “But I was told this week that he isn’t coming before HARC. They’re issuing him a permit and he’ll knock the building down as soon as possible, but he’s not going to build anything there anytime soon. He’s said he’s tired of the phone calls about demolishing the building.” When another panelist asked if the board was legally obligated to review demolitions in the historic district, the Maryland Historict Trust planner said “That’s what state law requires.”
Why the town wanted to rush this, bypassing its procedures, was something that continued perplexing the board. “Several of our leadership” wanted the building, which was “a thorn in the side of someone” down for a long time it was noted as the staff and attorney continued explaining the situation. When it was remarked that it was structural unsound and leaning it was noted that three engineering studies, along with the building inspector, had examined it for structural soundness. “If it’s not structural unsound and it’s not a blight per se, I don’t understand what the rush is. What’s the big rush to have a big hole in town,” committee-person Josh Brown stated. “When I look at this I see an architectural significant façade, but I also see a project that’s not economic feasible,” Clark added. “It could be as late as the 1920s, but the windows look like its 19th century. . . . There is something incongruous about this. I think it’s an improper procedure.”
With the meeting nearing three hours, Brown moved to have the chairperson express dissatisfaction with the matter and let the town known they want it to come before HARC. “Of course you might not get a chance to before tomorrow morning. He just picked up the demolition permit,” Wilson and Minner chimed in. The board agreed to have the chair notify the town and two days later an announcement of a public hearing was posted on the town website, indicating that a public hearing will be held on a demolition permit request on May 11, 2011, at 7:00 p.m. at the town hall.