Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh filed criminal charges Monday against a developer who demolished the historic St. Vincent’s Infant Asylum buildings in Baltimore without proper permits and notices.
An eight-count criminal information filed in Baltimore City Circuit Court alleges that William Anthony Culler II violated state environmental and asbestos control laws when his company, Culler Group, demolished the buildings in February 2018, according to a news release from the Maryland Office of the Attorney General.
“We allege Culler illegally demolished these buildings without proper notice and authorization, and without the required safeguards in place,” Frosh said in a statement. “Asbestos is an extremely hazardous substance and can become airborne during demolition, endangering the health of workers and the surrounding community, including children.”
The charges include failure to obtain approval for the demolition, failure to inspect the property for asbestos, failure to notify the state of the intent to engage in an asbestos project and failure to take reasonable steps to prevent airborne asbestos, among others, according to the release. Each count carries a penalty of up to one year of incarceration and a maximum $25,000 fine.
Frosh’s office previously filed a civil lawsuit against Culler and his development company, alleging they exposed the neighborhood to asbestos for more than a year. Maryland Department of the Environment inspectors collected samples of demolition debris and confirmed the presence of regulated asbestos-containing material, according to the release.
The city fined the involved companies more than $450,000 for the demolition in April 2019.
Investigators were alerted to the demolition by a complaint to MDE. The department served the developers with a corrective order instructing the owners to dispose of the waste as directed by Maryland law, but they had not complied as of July 2019, when the civil case was filed. The case is still pending in Baltimore City Circuit Court, according to electronic court records.
The asylum properties complex was built between 1860 and the 1910s, according to the Baltimore Heritage historic group. It was heavily damaged by a fire in 2015.
State records indicate the property was bought by New York-based 1411 Division Street LLC for more than $866,000 more than three years ago.