Frederick News-Post highlights demolition by neglect at Birely Tannery

The Frederick News-Post (FNP) this morning highlights neglect of the Birely Tannery by its current owners, the Randall family. It details the code violations precipitated by the neglect.

Reporter Mallory Panuska: “The (Birely Tannery) building is run-down, and according to city code enforcement officials, has several outstanding violations. The recent violations were issued in March after an online complaint from county resident and anti-blight activist Ned Bond. Bond has kept a close eye on the tannery building for years and has frequently submitted code violation complaints based on what he observes.” (REVISED: Ned Bond says our first report exaggerated his role in filing complaints.)

Ned Bond

Violation charges issued by the City after Bond filings in March include:
— Missing, damaged and improperly boarded-up windows

— Missing and damaged lintels

— Missing or damaged and rotting soffits, roof trim and fascia

— Missing drainpipe and defective gutters

In July a complaint about groundhogs being allowed to burrow into the building resulted in another citation.

The City’s code enforcement chief Brittany Parks says all these notices are “open” meaning they have not been fully addressed to her unit’s satisfaction.  The local Anthony Owens company was hired to fix the violations by the Randall family company that owns the property 200 E Patrick Street LLC. Myron Randall a principal of the company is quoted saying he knows of no violations remaining to be addressed. But he is also quoted as saying work at the building was “put on hold” when the demolition application (HPC17-490) was filed June 15.

If the required work was done, why was work “put on hold”?

The FNP report makes clear the Randalls have been expecting to be able to demolish the building and have over the years been doing only what the City forced them to do.

2016 violation charges were the result of inspections by City inspectors. These violations were “closed out” (cancelled) when the code enforcement unit was told — falsely — that the building was scheduled to be demolished.

The building was the subject of a ‘demolition by neglect’ complaint in 2013, at which time a hole in the roof was found.

The FNP report continues:

“The outstanding code violations were also not the first ones issued at the site. For years, various code violations have been issued and addressed. For example, according to city code enforcement records, the building was condemned in 2011 after a fire and subject to “demolition by neglect” in 2013 due to a litany of issues.”

FNP readers are told for the first time that the July 13 vote by the HP Commission found the Birely site to be  “a contributing resource of unusual importance” to the downtown Historic District, and that the agenda now is to discuss ways of modifying the project to preserve the Tannery, not demolition.

This is a welcome improvement in the local newspaper’s reporting.

Code & Guidelines
Chapter 11 of the Frederick City Guidelines p147 on contains the following provision:
“C. Demolition by NeglectContributing properties that are greatly deteriorated because of deferred maintenance will not be approved for demolition.”

The City’s Land Management Code contains this:
“B. Demolition by Neglect. In the event of demolition by neglect, the Commission may request that the appropriate department of the City initiate enforcement action against any appropriate defendant in accordance with the Property Maintenance Code or other applicable City law.”

Ned Bond explains:
“There is no specific ordinance in the city’s municipal codes or city property maintenance code regarding ‘demolition by neglect’.
“Demolition by any means can only be done through approvals and permits. Demolition by neglect is simply a continual failure to perform preventative and/or corrective maintenance (neglect) that results in the general decline of the integrity of a building.
“Typically, this type of neglect would result in one or more code violations directly addressable by our City codes, assuming the neglect is visible.
“”We should refrain from claiming that demolition by neglect is a violation in itself.
“However, it IS a process by which a property owner may subject a structure to irreversible damage over a prolonged period of time thereby improving the likelihood of a demolition approval.
“Without the oversight of code enforcement, this form of demolition is often the easiest to achieve, provided you have the time to wait it out.”


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