Monday, June 27, 2011

Information about Rodgers Forge covenants

The proposed kitchen expansion at 300 Hopkins that the board is seeking to halt has people asking some interesting questions: What exactly are the covenants, and what do they allow and what do they prohibit? Why have some covenants expired and others have not? Why haven't I seen the covenants and where can I find them?

I'm not a lawyer and I have no expertise in property law, so please understand that this post is just a layman's view of the situation; it is not a legal opinion nor is it legal advice.

Covenants are legal documents that run with the land and they are filed in the county courthouse. They are similar to your deed and they say what may or may not be built or altered on your property. Many neighborhoods, including Wiltondale, Homeland and Gaywood, post their covenants online. Stoneleigh is no longer governed by covenants.

Covenants should not be confused with the “guidelines” that are published in the Rodgers Forge phone directories that discuss height of fences, size of decks, color of awnings, not keeping a bike on your porch, etc. A covenant is basically a legal way of saying, "We, the developers, are setting up a few basic rules for these homes and later if individual owners want to alter the exterior of their homes, they must get permission." Covenants can only be changed through specific legal channels and with homeowners' signed approval.

The guidelines, on the other hand, are what the board has created in order to tell homeowners what types of changes it will and won't approve. The guidelines can change at any time as long as a majority of board members agree to the change. (More on the guidelines in a moment.)

Originally, the Keelty Company had the right to enforce the covenants, but in 1960 it signed over that right to the Rodgers Forge board.


There is no single set of “Rodgers Forge covenants.” They vary depending on when the homes were built. Some covenants cover several blocks and some cover only one side of one block. Some set up restrictions on the property and the house, and some set up restrictions only on the house.

While they can vary from street to street, over the years the board has determined that there are basically three general types of covenants in Rodgers Forge:

The first type covers the blocks of Regester, Murdock, Dunkirk and Hopkins from Pinehurst to York Road, which is the original or “old” section of the neighborhood. These covenants state that they run through 1960 at which time they will “cease.” Click here to see an example of these types of covenants.

The second type of covenant is still in effect and says that “no building shall be erected placed or altered on any building plot in this subdivision until the external design and location thereof have been approved in writing” by the board. There is no mention of changes to the land (fences, landscaping, lawn ornaments, etc.). Click here to see an example.

The third type of covenant is much more detailed and talks about fences and awnings, etc. Click here to see an example


The board has looked into the issue of covenants at least twice in its history. In 2005, the board created an "architecture task force" to, among other things, determine what covenants covered which blocks; see which covenants were enforceable; get community input on the guidelines; and set up "specific, clear and understandable architectural standards." The task force didn't get very far and fizzled out before any of those goals were completed. But it did hire a title searcher to look up some covenants. In 2007, the leader of that task force wrote a letter to an incoming board member to explain to him what had been found in terms of the covenants.
Click here to read the letter.

Additionally, the board apparently researched covenants extensively in 1967 and issued a detailed list of each block of Rodgers Forge and indicated which block was covered by which general type of covenant. I have not verified that these are all correct but it might be a helpful tool for those interested in seeing the types of covenants that likely run with their property.

In the report you'll see references to documents such as "2043/449." What that means is that the covenant is recorded in the courthouse in book #2043 starting on page 449.

According to the report, here is the block-by-block breakdown of the covenants:

If you live here:
Dunkirk 200-427 both sides
Hopkins 200-427 both sides
Murdock 200-427 both sides
Pinehurst east side
Regester 200-427 both sides
then your house is probably covered by covenants similar to the 965 set

If you live here:
Dumbarton 151-427 odd side
Dunkirk 1-128 both sides
Glen Argyle 109-135 both sides
Hopkins 100-158 both sides
Murdock 1-150 both sides
Overbrook 100-428 both sides
Pinehurst west side
Regester 1-169 both sides
then your house is probably covered by covenants similar to the 1870 set

If you live here:
Brandon 100-252 both sides
Dumbarton 128-206 even side
Lanark 7200-7237 both sides
Stanmore Court 7400-7424 both sides
Stanmore Road 101-344 both sides
Stevenson 101-242 both sides

then your house is probably covered by covenants similar to the 2043 set (note: page 459 is where the more relevant language begins)

If you live here:
Chumleigh 408-426 both sides
Dumbarton 330-340 even side
Dumbarton 402-426 even side
Heathfield 7008-7127 both sides
Heathfield 7128-7140 even side
Heathfield 7129-7133 odd side
Old Trail 400-440 both sides
Rodgers Court 417-425 odd side
Rodgers Court 7100-7122 both sides
Stevenson 401-419 odd side
York 7000-7116 even side
then your house is probably covered by covenants similar to the 2678 set

If you live here:
Old Trail 300-377 both sides
Stevenson 311-323 odd side
then your house is
probably covered by covenants similar to the 2928 set

Again, these are not necessarily the covenants for your particular house, but they are, according to the 1967 report, very similar in language to the ones that run with your property.


The Rodgers Forge board, on advice from its attorney,
J. Carroll Holzer, maintains that it still has the authority to enforce the covenants that expired in 1960, although it has offered no specifics on why it takes that position. The board declined to comment on questions about covenants because it is waiting to hear the results of the 300 Hopkins variance. (While covenants are not technically at issue in the variance question, the board told the homeowner's attorney that if the variance is granted and she moves ahead with construction, it will file suit to stop her based on covenant restrictions.) The board indicated it might discuss at its next meeting, which is August 31, the possibility of at some point commenting on covenants.

The board has filed several covenant-related lawsuits in the past. A few years ago it sued homeowners on Lanark Road, which is in the newer section where the covenants have not expired, after the owners put a roof over their deck without first seeking board approval. The homeowners decided to tear down the roof and move to a new neighborhood rather than fight in court, so no ruling was ever made.

I'm not aware of any case in which the board sued someone on the basis of a covenant violation in the expired section after 1960. Indeed, about 15 years ago the owner of 300 Hopkins (in the "expired" section) enclosed her front porch with glass windows even after the board denied her request to do so, and no action was taken.

When the board went to court to fight a kitchen expansion at 201 Murdock (also the "old" section), the covenants were brought up but Holzer did not provide the judge with a copy of the covenants, according to the ruling, which was in favor of the homeowners.


While the covenants are often considered to be written in stone, they can be changed. Near the end of each covenant document, as evidenced in the above examples, there is language that explains how this can be done (except for those that expired in 1960). Generally, it requires a certain percentage of homeowners in the given area to sign off on the change.

That’s what one Rodgers Forge resident did when he wanted to put skylights in his house and the board said no. (He now has the skylights and the board did not take legal action.)
His home is in the non-expired section. Click here to read the abrogation that allowed the skylights.

(The abrogation issue raises an interesting question in my non-law-schooled mind. There is such a thing as a "rule against perpetuities," which means property
contracts can't go on indefinitely; they must have an exit clause. This could be an expiration date, or automatic renewal unless a specified action is taken to stop the renewal, or a process by which the contract can be changed or nullified. But if the board takes the position that the expired covenants have not actually expired, where is the exit clause? There is no mechanism for altering that set of covenants, so without an expiration date they would remain unchanged and in force forever -- in other words, in perpetuity.)


Now on to the guidelines.

The Rodgers Forge board has the authority to enforce the covenants. To do so, the board has come up with a set of guidelines. These guidelines, however, should not be confused with the covenants.

The covenants are very limited in their directives. Take the "2043" covenants -- they basically say:
  • you can't carry out a noxious or offensive trade on your property or do something that could become a nuisance to the neighborhood
  • you can't put a shack or barn on your property and live in it
  • garages must be brick, not metallic, and you can't park on your property except in a garage
  • sun rooms are not allowed where plans call for open space but bay windows are OK
  • you can't change the exterior of your home without first getting approval; there is no directive, except for the above points, about what types of changes should or should not be approved
The board is not required to draw up the guidelines such that they enforce all of the covenants. That is left to the board's discretion, per the 1960 transfer of power. For example, some covenants prohibit parking pads and say fences can't be taller than 3.5 feet, but the board allows both parking pads and 6-foot fences. Conversely, the board could perhaps use the "nuisance" section of the covenants to sanction residents who routinely leave trash strewn about the alleys or those who consistently leave large amounts of dog feces in their yards.

Over the past few years, the guidelines have gotten more expansive. For example, the 1995-1996 guidelines (pictured below) took up about half a page of the directory: Today, the guidelines take up five full pages in the directory. Click here to view guidelines dating back to 1992. The guidelines are created by the board’s architectural committee and approved by the board. The guidelines can be changed at any time should a majority of board members vote to do so.

Lastly, it is now possible to look up most covenants online for free, although it can be a somewhat complicated process. I will have an explanatory post on how to look up individual covenants within the next few days.

What do you think? Post or read comments here: Comments

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Towson University says compaints about students decline

Here's the story in

What do you think? Post or read comments here: Comments

Friday, June 17, 2011

Owner of Padonia Park charged with having child porn

Here's the story from WJZ, which first reported it, and a short piece in The Sun.

He is not charged with having improper contact with children, but it's still very disconcerting. Are you a member here? What's your reaction?

What do you think? Post or read comments here: Comments

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Councilman Marks works to overturn in-state tuition to illegal immigrants

Read about his door-to-door campaign in What do you think about his efforts?

What do you think? Post or read comments here: Comments

Monday, June 13, 2011

RFCA takes up anti-rat cause

Tyler Mays, vp of the Rodgers Forge board, has contacted Councilman David Marks' office about the rat problem, and they said they are talking to code enforcement about it. Here's Mays' email:

Thank you for taking the time to listen to my concerns regarding a reported rat issue around the Tot Lot area in the Rodgers Forge Community. Please accept this as a formal written request on behalf of the Rodgers Forge Community Association to run a sweep in the Community to address this problem.

I have copied [the homeowner] in this e-mail. She is the concerned resident that I spoke with this morning. Her house borders the tot lot on Dunkirk. The Tot Lot is located in the alley between Blenheim (part of the Gaywood Community) and Dunkirk (Rodgers Forge) and runs
perpendicular to Bellona Avenue. The Tot Lot is county owned property.

She informed me that she noticed a rodent problem within the last few weeks (saw what appeared to be pellets and some holes). After moving some debris this morning at a neighbors house to search for nests, they saw 5 baby rats that scattered immediately. [OH MY GAWD! I WOULD HAVE FREAKED.] She also reports that her husband saw a rat recently.

What do you think? Post or read comments here: Comments

Just visited MOM's Organic Market in Timonium

I visited MOM's Organic Market today for the first time. I liked it a lot. It was really clean, well lit, the aisles were wide and they had a ton of stuff. I particularly liked the large bulk section. It's located off York Road in the plaza with Michael's, Kohl's and Old Navy. Photos here:

What do you think? Post or read comments here: Comments

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Rat problem near the Tot Lot

A homeowner on Dunkirk whose back yard faces the Tot Lot posted on the Rodgers Forge listserv the other day that she and her neighbors have been seeing a lot of rat burrows in their yard and rat droppings in their garages. She said she was hiring an exterminator and wondered if anyone else had problems and wanted to get their yard taken care of and possibly get a group discount.

I spoke to her today and she said she got about 15 emails from neighbors, some of whom live several blocks away. One woman she spoke with, who lives near Blenheim and Bellona, said she had an exterminator come and he opened her trash can and out jumped a three-pound rat that quickly scurried away.

"I put sod down about a month ago and I noticed that something had peeled it back," she told me. "I thought my son had done it but then I noticed about five or six slanted holes that are larger than a golf ball and I realized we had a problem."

A while back she and her neighbor were sitting in her back yard when something a bit larger than a squirrel walked toward them then went around to the front of the house. They realized it was a rat, screamed, and it ran onto Dunkirk where it got hit by a car.

She knows of someone else a few blocks away who had a whole nest of them in his wood pile, and he exterminated them himself by grabbing a shovel and beating them to death.

Atlantic Pest Control is coming to her house on Monday to treat her yard and garage and those of two neighbors. She is hoping others will also get their yards serviced and be good about picking up dog feces and getting rid of bird feeders (both of which attract rats). She's also worried that the rats might be attracted to the sand in the Tot Lot sand box. (Ewww!)

She talked to the county but all they will do, they said, is issue citations to people who leave trash cans unlidded, etc. They won't actually do anything to get rid of the rats.

Here are some rat-control tips from Baltimore County:

Be neat. Keep your yard free of trash, debris, high grass or accumulations of building supplies. If you must store materials or equipment outside do so neatly. Organizing and/or elevating stored items helps to reduce harborage and allows you to inspect under and around them more easily.

Don’t feed the rats. You may not realize that pet food, dog manure, open garbage cans or cans without tight fitting lids or bags of garbage, bird seed or other food scraps left outside are an open invitation for rats to visit you and establish a home in your yard. Never put household garbage or food scraps in compost piles.

Cut off their water supply. Dump pails, unused flower pots, toys or equipment in which water can accumulate (standing water also provides a breeding area for mosquitos during the summer months).

Read more here:

Have you seen rats where you live?

What do you think? Post or read comments here: Comments

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Why aren't parents fighting for AC in the schools?

Here is an excellent opinion piece in by a parent activist who is still fighting for AC in schools even though her son has moved on to a school that, I think, has AC. She posits that one reason this issue isn't tackled is that the kids suffer but then move to a new school a few years later and no one keeps up a sustained fight.

We have a school right here in Rodgers Forge, Dumbarton Middle, that doesn't have AC. Maybe someone with a kindergartner at RFES will take on this issue. It really is ridiculous that the schools are so hot that it makes kids and teachers sick. And not to state the obvious, but how do you think Joe Hairston and Kevin Kamenetz would do without AC in their offices?

"[Former County Executive Jim] Smith, as well as Congressman Dutch Ruppersberger and the previous county executive, bear the primary responsibility for why only half of Baltimore County Public Schools have decent climate control, while we are surrounded by counties with 100 percent air conditioning in their schools. Those politicians simply wouldn't pay for it.

What long-term position on climate control in schools will be taken by current County Executive Kevin Kamenetz remains to be seen. Kamenetz was instrumental in obtaining air conditioning for Ridgely and nine other schools in the 2011 school capital budget, but no requests for retrofitting older schools with air conditioning were included in the 2012 school capital budget. Since BCPS did not ask him for this funding, he didn’t have to take a position.

The second responsible party is the BCPS administration and the Board of Education. Unlike their counterparts in surrounding counties, they have never made a sustained commitment to climate control in schools. Superintendent Dr. Joe Hairston refused to meet with Ridgely parents for three years about the terrible heat there." Read the full piece here.

What do you think? Post or read comments here: Comments

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Tomorrow night's RFCA board meeting closed to most residents

Update: The board updated its blog post, so if you have a matter you intended to bring to the board tonight, you may still be able to do so. They also clarified the reason for the school not being available. Details here.

From the Rodgers Forge board's blog: "Because schools are closed for the summer, we no longer have access to RFES's "cafetorium". The meeting will be held at an undisclosed member's house. Due to space restrictions, this meeting will be conducted closed door."

What do you think? Post or read comments here: Comments