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A developer plans on converting the Crittendon Mansion into apartments and building townhomes on the site as part of a $2.6 million project. (The Daily Record/Maximilian Franz)

Questions cloud Crittenton Mansion redevelopment plans

The developer who wants to convert the historic Crittenton Mansion into apartments hopes to start work on the project this winter, but delays from neighbors and lingering questions about whether the project requires the City Council approval continue to dog the proposal.

Al Barry, of AB Associates and developer John Brooks’ land use consultant, said despite making a presentation about the $2.6 million project to the community in September the developers have not received any feedback. He said the company is trying to get community support for the development in case it needed council approval. City law requires the council to approve a bill before a single-family dwelling can be divided into a multifamily units in certain residential areas.

But now Barry argues the renovation doesn’t require the council to pass a bill for the mansion to be divided into apartments because the home was a multifamily dwelling when it was the Florence Crittenton Home for Girls.

“We’re not convinced, frankly, that we need [council approval],” Barry said.

He said the plans, which include breaking the mansion up into 15 apartments and building 19 townhouses on 2.5 acres of land, are already allowed under city zoning. The number of apartments proposed is only a third of what’s allowed under the density permitted in that area of the city, he said.

The fight over the proposed development stretches back more than a year and involves the zoning board initially denying a variance in March needed to build the project. The board then reversed itself in May after the developer presented revised plans. The board’s decision to grant a variance angered residents and Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke, who argued the changes in plans were not substantially different from the earlier proposal. Plans are not eligible for re-consideration by the board less than a year after the rejection unless there are substantial changes.

That led to opponents forming the nonprofit Friends of Crittenton Mansion and filing a lawsuit challenging the board’s decision to grant the variance. But the lawsuit was thrown out of court after the judge ruled the nonprofit did not own property in the community and therefore lacked standing.

The developer and the community are scheduled to meet regarding the project on Monday.

Clarke said she was unsure of the community’s position on the project following the last presentation made by developers. But she said she hopes there can be some progress regarding an agreement between the developer and the community over the redevelopment of the mansion. Clarke maintained that the project still required her to introduce a bill in the council before the apartments can be built.

“This is the zoning board that totally reversed itself within six weeks of a negative vote on variances on this project. So I have great concerns about handling this through the zoning board, and I consider it illegal,” Clarke said.

The historic mansion dates back to the antebellum period when the Jones Falls Valley was populated with various mill towns. In the 1920s the Florence Crittenton Society purchased the mansion and turned it into a home for unwed mothers. Earlier this month the state announced $520,000 in historic tax credits for the project , which is expected to cost about $2.6 million.

About Adam Bednar

Adam Bednar covers real estate and development for The Daily Record.