Saturday, June 30, 2012

Fallen tree blocking Bellona

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

How did you fare in the storm?

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

Friday, June 29, 2012

Rodgers Forge resident killed in pedestrian accident

Terrance Walbert of Dumbarton Road died after being hit by a car. Here is the Sun article. What horrible news; my condolences to his family and friends.

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

Spoiled American kids

Interesting New Yorker article in which researchers ask why American families demand so little of their children in comparison to those in other cultures.

... In the L.A. families observed, no child routinely performed household chores without being instructed to. Often, the kids had to be begged to attempt the simplest tasks; often, they still refused. In one fairly typical encounter, a father asked his eight-year-old son five times to please go take a bath or a shower. After the fifth plea went unheeded, the father picked the boy up and carried him into the bathroom. A few minutes later, the kid, still unwashed, wandered into another room to play a video game.

In another representative encounter, an eight-year-old girl sat down at the dining table. Finding that no silverware had been laid out for her, she demanded, “How am I supposed to eat?” Although the girl clearly knew where the silverware was kept, her father got up to get it for her.

In a third episode captured on tape, a boy named Ben was supposed to leave the house with his parents. But he couldn’t get his feet into his sneakers, because the laces were tied. He handed one of the shoes to his father: “Untie it!” His father suggested that he ask nicely.

“Can you untie it?” Ben replied. After more back-and-forth, his father untied Ben’s sneakers. Ben put them on, then asked his father to retie them. “You tie your shoes and let’s go,’’ his father finally exploded. Ben was unfazed. “I’m just asking,’’ he said.

Read more

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

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

West Towson home for those seeking more space

sponsored post

Looking for more space? Great West Towson 4/5 bedroom, 3/5 bath colonial with two main level family rooms, finished lower level, CAC. Ideal location. $575,000.
Ashley Richardson, Long and Foster. 410-868-1474
More details are here.

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

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Latest crime report

June 20: First Degree Burglary, 400 block of East Pennsylvania Avenue, 21286
Between 7:15 a.m. and 5:30 p.m., an unknown suspect forced the kitchen sliding door open and stole jewelry from the home.

June 15-16: First Degree Burglary, 6600 block of Collinsdale Road, 21234
Between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m., an unknown suspect entered the apartment and ransacked all of the rooms. Electronics were taken.

June 15: Attempted Robbery, Pennsylvania Avenue and York Road, 21204
At 11:08 p.m., two suspects approached the victim and attempted to take money from him using physical force. Tony Lyde, 44, of the 3300 block of McElderry Street, 21205 and Reginald Bonaparte, 32, of the 1600 block of Argonne Drive, 21218 were arrested and charged with robbery and assault.

June 15: Armed Robbery, unit block of Venus Court, 21234
At 10:30 p.m., two suspects approached the victim from behind and struck him in the head with a handgun. The suspects took the victim’s wallet, jewelry, phones, and shoes. The suspects fled on foot. Both suspects are described as black males, 18 to 20 years old.

June 15: First Degree Burglary, 1500 block of Old Orchard Lane, 21204
Between 9:30 a.m. and noon, an unknown suspect entered the residence through an unlocked front door and removed cash and electronics.

June 14-15: First Degree Burglary, 1600 block of Melby Court, 21234
Between 7 p.m. on June 14 and 6 a.m. on June 15, an unknown suspect pried open the rear door and stole electronics.

June 14: Attempted Commercial Burglary, 800 block of Taylor Avenue, 21286
At 1:41 a.m., an unknown suspect broke into a vacant building in the 900 block of Taylor Avenue. The suspect cut a hole in the wall to gain access to the Liquor Mart. An alarm sounded, and the suspect fled. Nothing appears to be missing.

June 13: First Degree Burglary, unit block of Witherwood Court, 21204
Between 8 and 10:30 a.m., an unknown suspect broke out a bedroom window and stole electronics.

June 11: Attempted First Degree Burglary, 1700 block of Kennaway Road, 21234
At 10 a.m., an unknown suspect entered the back yard and attempted to pry open a basement storm door. Entry was not gained.

June 10: Commercial Burglary, 300 block of York Road, 21204
At 10:47 p.m., a suspect used a key to enter Jerry’s Subs and Pizza. The alarm was turned off and money was removed from a lock box.

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

Monday, June 25, 2012

Free bowling at Stoneleigh Lanes

Maybe that's why it was so packed the other day when my mother-in-law tried to take the kids there.

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

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Reward for radio-controlled plane at Dumbarton field

You know that beautiful weeping cherry tree in the Dumbarton field?  This evening, as my husband was flying his radio controlled glider, it landed right on top of that elegant tree!  Its wings are blue, white and yellow wing that spans 5 feet, and it has an orange tail.  It only weighs 8 oz, so it will probably blow down eventually.

If it's found, can you please call the Kleinsassers at 410-823-4934? Bill would greatly appreciate having it back, and is offering a $20 reward. Please do not risk life or limb for a model airplane, though.

Susan Kleinsasser

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

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Rodgers Forge man injured by falling tree limb; family blames county

WJZ reports: A man continues to fight for his life after a tree limb came crashing down, crushing him underneath its weight. ... The family says this accident could have been avoided if their requests to have the trees cut down were taken seriously by the Baltimore County.

I hope he makes a full recovery.

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

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Woodbrook Players auditions coming up

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

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

$2 Rita's June 20

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

Ruling on variance for 300 Hopkins

Below is the judge's ruling on the variance for the landing/deck at 300 Hopkins. It's a confusing decision because he denies the variance, but then says she didn't need a variance in the first place and acknowledges this leaves both sides in a "quandary." The homeowner's attorney, Art Buist, said he is still looking into the matter, and I have not heard back from the Rodgers Forge board about their reaction or any future plans regarding this case. Here is the recap of the variance hearing that was published last week. 

CASE NO. 2012-0221-A


This matter comes before the Office of Administrative Hearings for consideration of a Petition for Variance filed by Christiane M. Rothbaum, the legal owner. Petitioner is requesting Variance relief from Section 301.1.A of the Baltimore County Zoning Regulations ("B.C.Z.R.") to permit an existing open projection (existing deck, porch and landing) with a rear yard setback of 24.33' in lieu of the required 37.5'.

The subject property and requested relief are more fully described on the site plan that was marked and accepted into evidence as Petitioner's Exhibit l.

Appearing at the requisite public hearing in support of the variance request was Petitioner Christiane M. Rothbaum and Joe Milio with HMR Services, Inc. Art Buist, Esquire, was in attendance and represented the Petitioner. Appearing in opposition were Jean K. Duvall, Carol Zielke, and Bruce Hirshauer. J. Carroll Holzer, Esquire appeared and represented the Rodgers Forge community.

The file reveals that the Petition was properly advertised and the site was properly posted as required by the B.C.Z.R.

Testimony and evidence offered revealed that the subject property is 3,774 square feet and is zoned DR 10.5. The property is improved with a brick end-of-group town home, and the pictures submitted show the property is well maintained and attractive. Petitioner seeks approval for an "open projection" (i.e., open porch or deck) that has already been constructed and she needs variance relief to "legitimize" that structure.

The Zoning Advisory Committee (ZAC) comments were received and are made part of the record of this case. There were no adverse comments from any of the County reviewing agencies.

Based upon the testimony and evidence presented, I believe I must deny the request for variance relief. I find - as Judge Stahl did in an earlier case - that there is nothing particularly "unique" about the property owned by Petitioner. Rather, the Petitioner's home is virtually identical to the other 1,773 homes in Rodgers Forge, deliberately so. The neighborhood has a cohesive and uniform feel which is a major part of its appeal and market value. Counsel for Petitioner contended that the topography change in Petitioner's rear yard rendered the property "unique" as that term is used in Maryland law, but I respectfully disagree. The Maryland cases talk about "exceptional topographic conditions" that may lead to the grant of variance relief, but I do not believe that an elevation or grade change of less than one foot would meet this standard. See, Cromwell v. Ward, 102 Md. App. at 70l.

Though the Petition for Variance will be denied, I at the same time do not believe the Petitioner needs variance relief to enable her to keep her open porch. In this regard, I respectfully disagree with the conclusions reached by Administrative Law Judge Kotroco in his decision dated January 19, 2012.

The Zoning Commissioner's Policy Manual ZCPM states that the open projection "rules are dependent upon when the subdivision occurred." ZCPM § 301-1, p. 3-l. Petitioner's house was constructed in 1937, and the Rodgers Forge subdivision (or at least the portion containing Petitioner's home) was thus approved well before the adoption of the B.C.Z.R. The first County zoning regulations were adopted in 1945, and those regulations provide that a rear yard in a "D" Residence Zone (for Group houses, now known as townhouses) must have a minimum depth of 25 feet. B.C.Z.R. (1945) Section VI, C.4. (Petitioner's open porch is now located 24.33' from the rear lot line, which is approximately 8 inches deficient, assuming the 1945 regulations were applicable).

The 1945 regulations also provide that "uncovered porches" may be permitted where they would not "obstruct light and ventilation." B.C.Z.R. (1945) Section X, A.2. See also, ZCPM Section 301.1.A.1. There was no testimony presented in this case to the effect that Petitioner's porch would obstruct light or air, which is understandable given the porch is only one foot above grade. Thus, I do not believe variance relief was needed in the first instance.

This of course leaves the parties in a quandary, which is certainly not my intent. Counsel for Petitioner requested that, if relief was denied, I provide in the Order some further clarification of a "solution" to the problem. But that is not a function performed by an Administrative Law Judge hearing a zoning case. Rather, it is the Department of Permits, Approvals and Inspections (PAl), and the Administrative Law Judge hearing that agency's case, that must impose fines and order restoration of property in violation of the B.C.Z.R. Baltimore County Code (B.C.C.) Section 3-6-301.

That has already occurred in this case, which itself is somewhat unorthodox. In most cases, a zoning violation case will be held in abeyance to allow the homeowner to pursue variance relief to legitimize the structure or building at issue. Here, Administrative Law Judge Kotroco found the open porch violated the B.C.Z.R, and imposed a $1,000 fine. He did not order, as he would have been permitted to do, that the porch be removed. B.C.C. § 3-6-207. It is thus unclear whether the County would be authorized to pursue additional administrative remedies against the Petitioner, or if further prosecution at this point would be barred by principles of res judicata. Seminary Galleria, LLC v. Dulaney Valley Improv. Ass 'n., 192 Md. App. 719, 730 (2010) (well-settled that principles of res judicata apply to administrative proceedings). The B.C.C. does contain a provision authorizing the Department of PAI or adjacent neighbors to seek injunctive relief from a court, but it is unclear whether at this juncture res judicata would be a viable defense to such an action. B.C.C. §§ 32-3-607; 3-6-202. As noted above, those are issues decided by an Administrative Law Judge hearing zoning violation cases, and are beyond the scope of the present hearing involving only a petition for variance relief.

Pursuant to the advertisement, posting of the property, and public hearing on this petition held, and after considering the testimony and evidence offered, I find that Petitioner's variance request should be DENIED.

THEREFORE, IT IS ORDERED this 14th day of June, 2012 by this Administrative Law Judge that Petitioner's Variance request from Section 301.1.A of the Baltimore County Zoning Regulations ("B.C.Z.R.") to permit an existing open projection (existing deck, porch and landing) with a rear yard setback of 24.33' in lieu of the required 37.5', be and is hereby DENIED.

Any appeal of this decision must be made within thirty (30) days of the date of this Order.

Administrative Law Judge for Baltimore County

Update: Click here to read the order from the judge.

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

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Iggie's likely moving to Towson

Mount Vernon's loss is our gain. I love this place. Read about it in The Sun.

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

Friday, June 15, 2012

Star‐Spangled Spectacular

Tuesday, July 3, 2012 at 8 p.m.—Oregon Ridge Park
Wednesday, July 4, 2012 at 8 p.m.—Oregon Ridge Park

Join the BSO for an all‐American holiday celebration featuring Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture, Sousa’s Stars and Stripes Forever and more, choreographed to an amazing fireworks display! Plus hear the BSO’s “Oh, Say Can You Sing” contest winner perform the National Anthem.

*Tickets are general admission lawn seating and are available through the BSO Ticket Office, or 410.783.8000 or at the park gate. Advanced tickets are $18 for adults and $9 for children under 12. If purchased at the gate, tickets are $20 for adults and $10 for children under 12. Free parking is available at the Verizon lot on Shawan Road with shuttle to the park. Permits for onsite parking can be purchased for $12 in advance from the BSO Ticket Office for $15 at the gate.

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

Multi-family yard sale this Saturday, June 16, on Regester

Multi-family yard sale to be held this Saturday, June 16th. Something for everyone: toys, clothing, books, DVDs, furniture, strollers, baby things and MORE! Sale runs 8:00 a.m. until noon, no early birds please! Unit block of Regester, where Regester meets Dumbarton Road, just across from Rodgers Forge Elementary.

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

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Recap of variance hearing for 300 Hopkins

Here are highlights from the variance hearing about the landing/deck at 300 Hopkins, which was held on June 8, 2012, in front of Administrative Law Judge John E. Beverungen. At the bottom of the post are related documents, including a memo from the attorney for the Rodgers Forge board that sets out the board's position and a response from the homeowner's attorney.

Three witnesses were called: the homeowner, Christiane Rothbaum; her contractor Joseph Milio; and Rodgers Forge board member Carol Zielke. Board member Jean Duvall attended but did not testify.

Rothbaum testified that she had approached the board with three different plans for enclosing her rear porch and all were rejected. She then tried to get a variance from the county (because her home didn’t have the required setback) for an addition. Several board members testified against her at that hearing. The variance was denied.

She said that she then got a county permit to build a covered deck in the back, which did not require a variance because it was not enclosed. During construction, she said, the contractor told her the patio was in bad shape and he recommended tearing it out and putting up a wood landing instead (pictured).

She said the county came out at least five times to review her permit and review the work. (Court records show this was at the request of the Rodgers Forge board.)

“I feel like I have been singled out over and over,” Rothbaum testified.

Records show that there was a meeting scheduled for Nov. 1, 2011, between Councilman David Marks, his staff member Paula Houck, zoning officials, RF board president Jennifer Helfrich and Jean Duvall (head of the board's architectural committee). In preparation for that meeting, an inspector visited the property again, on October 28. He issued the citation for the landing on Nov. 2, one day after the Nov. 1 meeting. The citation said that she had a raised deck in violation of the required setback (the setback is the amount of land required to exist between your property and your property line).

In January there was another hearing about the landing/deck, at which board members Helfrich and Duvall also testified. A judge subsequently ruled against Rothbaum and said the structure was a raised deck, not a landing, and that it violated setback rules. A $1,000 fine was imposed. Rothbaum then applied for a variance to allow the structure.

At the variance hearing on June 8, attorney J. Carroll Holzer, whom the board hired to represent it in opposing the variance, suggested that Rothbaum had decided to flout the law. He asked if it was true that she told Loni Ingraham of the Towson Times on July 6, 2011, that she tried to do things legally but has learned that instead “don’t ask, don’t tell, just do” is how people should proceed. (I can’t find a Towson Times story where she’s quoted as saying that but if you find it please send it along.)

“I said that for good reason,” Rothbaum said, who has asserted in the past that she was trying to follow the rules while many neighbors have simply built what they wanted without permission from the county or the board.

“You felt you were being denied something everyone else was getting?” Holzer asked. “Was it about the time you said, “Don’t ask” to Loni that you decided to put up this landing?”

“No, you don’t need a permit [for the landing]. I have no ill intention. Consequently there was a problem. They tried to do [the landing] in the safest way,” Rothbaum said. “They added the landing as we reached the steps and found the problem at the end of construction of the porch.”

Holzer: “You didn’t call and have him add a porch at a later date?”

Rothbaum: “No.”

Holzer: “You’re asking for a variance for a landing. Do you have any intention of enclosing this in any way or shape or form?”

Rothbaum: “No.”

Holzer: “Do you have any intention of enclosing your existing porch?”

Rothbaum: “No.”

Holzer, with a raised voice: “Have you abandoned your idea of an enclosure for a bathroom or enlarging the kitchen or the footprint of your house?”

Rothbaum, fighting tears: “Mr. Holzer, I’m 66 years old and I’m tired of fighting and fighting and fighting. I’m close to a nervous breakdown over this.”

Holzer: “That might be true but you’re the instigator in this.”

Rothbaum’s contractor Joseph Milio was the next witness. He said he has been in the business 35 years and he’s the contractor who glassed in Rothbaum’s front porch many years ago.

Milio: “When the steps were built [for the back porch], the pavers were in bad condition. A lot were loose and I felt there was a safety issue. I’m going to take full responsibility because I suggested all this for safety issues and for it all to blend in. I had no intention of trying to hide this. I wanted a safe operation for my customer.”

Holzer said that if Milio had forgone the landing and instead turned the stairs at a 90-degree angle no variance would be required because steps don’t count in the setbacks. Holzer and Milio debated vigorously about whether it was a raised deck or simply a landing and if there was another way to make the stairs and ground area safe.

Milio: “I think what I recommended was the best solution. It makes the whole project tie in. She loves her house and wants a beautiful home. The whole project is an upgrade to the community and I don’t really see why we’re here.”

The next witness was board member Carol Zielke, who lives several blocks from Rothbaum and has owned her home for 37 years. Zielke is on the board’s architectural committee and the guideline committee.

She testified that on May 30, 2012, 16 board members met to discuss the variance and all 16 voted to protest Rothbaum’s variance for the deck/landing. Holzer asked her what the board’s issue was with the structure.

Zielke: “She never applied with us [the Rodgers Forge board] for the extension. We never had exact dimensions. If you subtract the new request from the old it’s 13’2” from the edge of the porch and that’s a very large projection, about 22 feet with her entire yard 46 feet deep, it’s almost half her yard.”

Zielke said past years she’d had a problem with her former neighbor [that is, the former homeowner next door to Zielke] who had wanted an enclosed addition and Zielke protested and it was denied. The owners appealed and it was denied again and they instead put up an open porch with screens.

“I thought all was settled. I had to live with this big porch and they put shutters up and we get no light or air. It’s been sold two or three times since then and the current owners wanted to enclose it. When I went to the planning office …”

Holzer then asked her to address the Rothbaum case instead.

Zielke: “Once a variance is issued and a structure is built, it becomes the established footprint of the home. They told me a home’s footprint includes the large projection. That makes it easier for an open projection – they could allow a roof over the entire structure and that’s where the board’s concern is. It would set a precedent and we could end up with structures we don’t want in the community.”

Zielke said Rothbaum needs to prove her property is unique in order to get a variance and she said she does not believe it is unique. Rothbaum, who was represented pro bono by Rodgers Forge resident and attorney Art Buist, maintains her property is unique because it slopes significantly. The law can also take into account hardships. Holzer asked Zielke if she thought there were any hardships.

“I think they are more self imposed because she built it without a variance or a permit. She made an assumption it was a landing and not a deck. Zoning isn’t required to forgive you for that. We’re concerned the entire community could be affected by this type of ruling.”

Holzer asked if it was a complaint from the board that caused the deck/landing citation.

“No, we didn’t report the lower deck,” Zielke said. “We didn’t find out until the hearing was posted in January. We had to scramble to get together. We said we support the county enforcing the code. I’m really concerned the open projection is going to be a huge structure if anything is built above it. Mrs. Rothbaum said she has no intention of doing that but some on the committee heard otherwise. Who knows if it is sold two or three times the new owner may indeed put something on top or even enclose it.”

[Note: Variances clarify whether a structure may be an “open projection” or an enclosed space. Here is an example.]

Zielke urged the judge to state in his ruling that no other structure can be built on the property without applying for permits and that it be strongly worded.

Zielke: “I think we heard about ‘Don’t ask, just do it’ and that is not good advice. It creates problems and unnecessary expense for the community and the county. We all need to be aware of the law and follow the appropriate steps.”

Buist asked Zielke what gave the board the power to seek consultation about the structure and he asked if it was true that Rothbaum’s covenants expired in 1960. Holzer stood up and objected. He said he’s written an opinion and he thinks a case was decided in which if covenants expired in one section and are not renewed but the community was designed to have covenants that they could still be enforced. (I tried to ask Holzer more about this after the hearing but he would not speak to me.)

The judge said that the attorneys could “talk all day” about covenants and that it wouldn’t influence his decision. “With all due respect, it doesn’t matter to me if she applied [to the board] or not.”

Buist then showed Zielke photos of several homes near Rothbaum that also appeared to not have appropriate setbacks and asked if the board had taken action in those cases. Holzer objected but the judge told Zielke to answer.

Zielke: “I don’t have all of the requests for permission to the board. I don’t remember these addresses. We don’t patrol the neighborhood, and people have tall fences. We’d need a cherry picker.”

In his closing statement Holzer said in part: “There has been no evidence that this property is unique. There is a failure to prove uniqueness. The community has appeared at every opportunity and I’ve represented it from the late 1980s in a number of issues. They have diligently tried to enforce the covenants and the proof is in the pudding: houses that had sold for $50,000 or $60,000 are now in the $200s and up and the board has been the driving force. When they say precedent is a concern, they mean it.

“I hate to say it this way but with the original front porch addition, there has been a proclivity to just do it and if you get caught you get caught and then you seek relief. Once a variance is granted it is the basis for all future efforts – putting a roof on, etc. Rodgers Forge has been very diligent.” He then explained further his position that her property is not unique and should not be granted a variance.

In his closing statement Buist said in part: “We do have testimony, unlike the other side who had no expert testimony, we had an expert in construction and he was asked and stated that her property is in fact different because it has more of a slope. We have specific evidence of topography. The landing should not necessarily require a variance or a permit.

“Should your honor decide there should be no variance and Mrs. Rothbaum is then required to do something, then I would ask your honor what’s the solution? The contractor said this was the safest and best way to do it. One third of the block already has something [that doesn’t meet setback requirements]. She did try, though she is under no obligation, she did try to comply with the board’s architectural committee. She is now faced with a great deal of scrutiny by the board. The complaints are not from citizens but by the association. She didn’t create this issue; she was solving an existing issue. There is uneven ground and she’s got this railing that comes up from the driveway to the basement. She has met the burden; her property has unique aspects to it. She has done a darn good job of keeping up her property and she doesn’t want it done in a slipshod way.”

The judge’s office said he is expected to rule on the matter within a week.

Related documents:

Memo from the board's attorney

Memo from homeowner's attorney

Letter from board president supporting current setback

January 2012 ruling that structure is a deck

Inspection report

Citation for deck

Notation of meeting between Marks and board

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

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Father's Day concert at Ladew Topiary Gardens

Father’s Day Concert with The CrawDADDIES

Sunday, June 17

Now a bastion of the Summer Concert Series, The Crawdaddies return for their annual Father’s Day celebration in the Gardens. Not sure what to get Dad this year? Bring him out to Ladew for dinner and drinks and enjoy some Cajun/Zydeco rhythms that will certainly get him Groovin’ in the Grass! We’ll provide the fun and you’ll get the brownie points!

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

Councilman Marks critical of new sibling policy at magnet schools

Baltimore Sun: Fifth District County Councilman David Marks this week called for outgoing Baltimore County Public Schools Superintendent Joe Hairston to "delay or modify" changes to school board policy regarding how students are assigned at county magnet schools. Read the story here.

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

Anneslie Home & Garden Tour is June 23

The "Diane Schatz Anneslie Home & Garden Tour" will be held on Saturday, June 23, 2012 (raindate Sunday, June 24th), beginning at 10am at Villa Anneslie. The tour will include several of historic Anneslie's great homes and gardens, including the gardens of Villa Anneslie.  Guest speakers will start off the day, followed by the self-directed tour. Homes and gardens will be open from 10am- 2pm. Tickets are $10 at the gate of the Villa at 529 Dunkirk Road. Proceeds benefit the Anneslie Gardens Committee.

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

Latest crime report and a message from Gaywood

From the Gaywood Community: "We’re writing to let you know that a home  in the 200 block of Gaywood Road was broken into around 4am this morning.  A laptop, purse, cell phone and keys were taken.  No one was hurt and the police have no suspects at this time.  We urge you to be vigilant by keeping your valuables out of sight and the doors and windows to your home locked at all times.

Similarly, there was an attempted theft on Sunday, June 3rd in the alley behind the 200 block of Gaywood Road.  A homeowner was about to go into his house when he noticed a male in a blue pickup truck lean over his fence and take a shop-vac out of his backyard.  When he stopped the man to ask him what he was doing, he put it back.  Please be on the lookout for an old, beat-up, dark blue pickup truck.  The suspect is described as a middle-aged, heavyset African American male.  Please be careful of what you leave near your fence/alley.  

Unfortunately, crime happens everywhere and is on the increase at this time of year when the weather gets nice.  Thieves look for easy opportunities and when they find them, take advantage.  Please look out for each other and call the police, even if it’s after the fact, so that there is a record."

From the Towson Precinct:

June 10: Animal Complaint, 1300 block of Taylor Avenue, 21234
At 9:30 p.m., officers responded for an animal complaint. They located a 7' rat snake, and notified Animal Control.

June 9: Attempted Armed Robbery – Gun, unit block of Meteor Court, 21234
At 10:10 p.m., three victims were in front of the home when they were approached by two men armed with handguns. One suspect demanded money from one of the victims. When he refused to comply, the suspect hit him with the gun. The two suspects fled on foot without getting any money. Both suspects are described as black males, 20 to 30 years old, 6’1” tall, and 175 pounds.

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

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Author events at The Ivy Bookshop

Simon Mawer
Wednesday, June 13
The author of The Glass Room discusses his latest novel, about a young, English woman's heroic struggles and sacrifices in war-torn Europe.  
6:30 pm Reading
The Ivy Bookshop


Alan Furst
Mission to Paris
Thursday, June 14
The master of pre-World War II espionage and intrigue discusses his most recent portrait of France on the edge of catastrophe.
6:30 pm Reading
The Ivy Bookshop  


Tim Kreider 
We Learn Nothing
Thursday, June 28
New York Times cartoonist's new collection of essays and  
cartoons turns a brutally honest eye on the human condition. 
6:30 pm Reading
The Ivy Bookshop   

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

White robin on Regester

From a friend who lives on Regester: Neighbors in the mood to describe genetic mutations to kids can find a white robin on the odd side of the 300 block of Regester Avenue -- we normally see it in the middle of the block. Not truly an albino since the breast is still red, but the rest of the bird is creamy white and s/he hangs out with other robins. I have yet to get a picture of the bird, but we see it nearly every time we're outside. Happy birdwatching!

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

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Drowning doesn't look like drowning

I posted this last year, too, but it's worth a review. The new captain jumped from the cockpit, fully dressed, and sprinted through the water. A former lifeguard, he kept his eyes on his victim as he headed straight for the owners who were swimming between their anchored sportfisher and the beach. “I think he thinks you’re drowning,” the husband said to his wife. They had been splashing each other and she had screamed but now they were just standing, neck-deep on the sand bar. “We’re fine, what is he doing?” she asked, a little annoyed. “We’re fine!” the husband yelled, waving him off, but his captain kept swimming hard. ”Move!” he barked as he sprinted between the stunned owners. Directly behind them, not ten feet away, their nine-year-old daughter was drowning. Safely above the surface in the arms of the captain, she burst into tears, “Daddy!”

How did this captain know – from fifty feet away – what the father couldn’t recognize from just ten? Drowning is not the violent, splashing, call for help that most people expect. The captain was trained to recognize drowning by experts and years of experience. The father, on the other hand, had learned what drowning looks like by watching television. If you spend time on or near the water (hint: that’s all of us) then you should make sure that you and your crew knows what to look for whenever people enter the water. Until she cried a tearful, “Daddy,” she hadn’t made a sound. As a former Coast Guard rescue swimmer, I wasn’t surprised at all by this story. Drowning is almost always a deceptively quiet event. The waving, splashing, and yelling that dramatic conditioning (television) prepares us to look for, is rarely seen in real life.

Read more and find out what signs to look for:

We had a terrifying experience with this a few years ago when my daughter was a toddler. My husband and I were at the pool with our two kids (ages 2 and 4, maybe?) and he and I were in the water chatting while the kids played within arms reach of us. I glanced down at my daughter and she was floating face down in the water, after apparently losing her footing. Just like this article says, there was no splashing, yelling, or struggling. A minute or two more of not paying extremely close attention and the outcome could have been unbearable.

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Saturday, June 9, 2012

Congrats, DMS grads

And congratulations to all area students who are moving up, moving over or moving on! 

From the incoming Dumbarton Middle PTSA president:

Thursday was the 8th Grade Farewell Assembly at the school and we were honored to have Councilman David Marks attending.  Here is a picture with Councilman Marks, Principal Kelly Erdman and proud graduates, Sky Campbell, Molly Bagli, and Magda Alaoui.

Thought your readers might want to share in this special day!

Cheri Bond Pegues

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Variance hearing

The variance hearing for the landing on Hopkins Road was held yesterday. I'll have a recap sometime next week after I review more documents. The judge won't rule on it for some time.

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Thursday, June 7, 2012

Rodgers Forge picnic is this Saturday

Board member Janine Schofield asked me to post this:

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Board hires attorney to fight homeowner's landing

There will be a hearing tomorrow (June 8) about a landing at 300 Hopkins Road. This is the home where the owner sought a county variance to enclose her porch in order to put a bathroom on the first floor of her house. The board testified against her in court and the variance was denied by a judge. She then got a permit for and built an open deck instead. During construction she was visited numerous times by county building inspectors at the behest of the Rodgers Forge board and the office of Councilman David Marks.

At issue now is the landing at the bottom of the stairs leading from her back deck (pictured above). The county says the landing goes too far into her yard and does not meet the required setbacks (that is, the amount of space between a structure and the end of your property line -- in this case, the alley). Board President Jennifer Helfrich wrote a letter to the county (below) saying the landing should be taken down. She also references the fact that the homeowner did not seek approval from the board's architectural committee for the landing.

(The original covenants say homeowners must seek board approval for external changes. But the home is in the old section of Rodgers Forge and her covenants say that they expire in 1960. The board maintains that the covenants are still in effect. Read the home's covenants here. The fourth page, #87, has the language about expiring.)

The board met in a special closed session recently and voted to hire J. Carroll Holzer to fight the variance at tomorrow's hearing. Documents in the file, which is available for public viewing at the courthouse, show he has subpoenaed three people to testify on the case: the zoning supervisor and two building inspectors.

I asked Helfrich about whether the board had voted to hire an attorney and about its objection to the landing. She replied: "The RFCA board can vote to release its meeting minutes after the June 8th zoning hearing. Currently, the RFCA board has no action against 300 Hopkins Road."

Records show that there was a meeting about the property scheduled for Nov. 1, 2011, between Councilman David Marks, his staff member Paula Houck, zoning officials, Helfrich and Jean Duvall (head of the board's architectural committee). In preparation for that meeting, a building inspector visited the property again, on October 28. He issued the citation for the landing on Nov. 2, one day after the Nov. 1 meeting. View the citation here.

I asked Councilman Marks about his involvement and he said: "The Rodgers Forge Community Association asked for our office to find out if proper permits had been issued; they apparently had not been issued.  The owner was informed that she needed proper permits and a variance.  A hearing was set, but because the association noted there was untimely notification, the hearing was delayed."

The hearing will be June 8 at 10:00 am in The Jefferson Building at 105 W. Chesapeake (next to the post office) in room 205. The judge will take comments about the case up until 4:30 pm today via email at Case number is 2012-0221-A.

Related documents:

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Charles Street roundabout to go; replaced by traffic lights

Read about it in Patch.

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Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Rodgers Forgian wins fiction award

Read the Sun story here.

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Latest crime report

At about 3:00 AM today police were chasing suspects in the alley behind the 100 block of Regester Avenue (even side) with the use of the K-9 unit. The suspects had apparently been trying to steal items from cars or something in that vein, according to police. One resident heard an officer commending his dog for finding "the bad guy."

Here's the lastest from Precinct 6:

June 1: First Degree Burglary, 8500 block of Water Oak Road, 21234
Between 2:30 and 9 p.m., an unknown suspect forced open a rear basement door and entered the residence. The suspects took a safe containing money.

June 1: First Degree Burglary, 200 block of Linden Avenue, 21204
Between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., an unknown suspect forced open the rear door to gain entry to the home. Nothing was taken.

June 1: Commercial Burglary, 6800 block of Loch Raven Boulevard, 21286
At 5:44 a.m., an unknown suspect broke the front glass door of Stokos Carryout and stole money.

June 1: Armed Robbery – Gun, 7500 block of Hillsway Avenue, 21234
At 12:47 a.m., two suspects confronted a man and a woman. The suspects struck the male victim with a handgun, causing him to fall to the ground. The female victim was struck with the gun as well. The suspects, two black males between 18 and 20 years old, fled on foot with the female victim’s purse.

May 31: Carjacking, unit block of Echoway Court, 21286
At 2:50 p.m., two men approached a man and struck him in the face. The suspects fled in the victim’s white Toyota truck. The suspects are both white males.

May 30: Armed Robbery – Gun, 8400 block of Loch Raven Boulevard, 21234
At 10:55 p.m., a man struggled with three suspects. One of the suspects displayed a weapon and stole the victim’s money. The suspects are described as three black males. One was 5’8” tall, one was 5’9” tall and one was 5’10” tall.

May 30: Attempted First Degree Burglary, unit block of Clybourne Court, 21204
Between 7 and 10:40 p.m., an unknown suspect attempted to enter the victim’s apartment. The front door knob was broken off.

May 29: Commercial Burglary, 1300 block of Goucher Boulevard, 21286
At 1:56 a.m, a man broke the front glass door to enter Hot Spot Sweepstakes. The suspect took money.

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

Groundbreaking for Stoneleigh Elementary addition

Congratulations to the community activists who made this happen.

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Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Special-needs cat seeks home

Hi Kris, I found this cat up behind Royal Farms tonight on the way to Rita's. He is orange medium hair about six months old. He is super sweet. I took him to the vet and he tested positive for feline leukemia. If anyone can take him in, please contact me. Thank you!

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

Carnival Science this weekend

The Maryland Science Center's Carnival Science Celebration is June 9 and 10:

Making his first appearance at Carnival Science Days is former Smithsonian Artist in Residence Rhys Thomas, who will perform his awesome Science Circus show.

On Saturday, the Walter Johnson High School Rubik’s Cube Club will demonstrate how to beat the 3D puzzle that has stumped solvers for decades.

Former yo-yo world champion, Chuck Pribulick, will be on hand to teach guests the ups and downs of yo-yo mastery on Sunday, with help from the Eldersburg Library Yo-Yo Club.

There will also be plenty of carnival games, prizes, and chances to learn circus staples like plate spinning and wire walking.

The official page for the show is
and the Facebook event can be found here:

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

Abandoned house gets a makeover

The abandoned house on the corner of Pinehurst and Regester has been sold ($108K) and is being totally gutted. It appears it will be either be a rental or flipped.

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

Monday, June 4, 2012

231 Murdock, and other Rodgers Forge homes, up for auction today

Baltimore County is having a tax auction today and included is 231 Murdock (above), the home at the corner of Murdock and Dorking that has famously been abandoned for years with its windows open. 405 Dumbarton and 411 Dumbarton, both listed as rentals, are also up for auction.

Here's how the county says it works: These are homes for which the owners have not paid taxes and the county has a lien against them. So you place a sealed bid saying how much you'd be willing to pay for the house. If you win, you get the lien and the homeowner has six months to pay you the lien amount plus a fee and keep the house. If he/she doesn't, you can start foreclosure proceedings and when they're done, the house is yours for the amount of your bid. 231 Murdock's lien is $5,400.

Of course, you don't get to tour the home or have it inspected so you don't really know what you'll be getting into. The deadline to register to bid has passed but they do these every year.

If no one bids on the house, the county keeps the lien and can start foreclosure proceedings and then auction off the house itself. The county said they should know in about a week which properties got bids. So stay tuned, that blight on Murdock might be addressed soon.

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

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Common Ground on the Hill - Groupon

From a reader:

Here's a great daytrip that's up on Groupon right now!

They have internationally known roots musicians, which includes blues, bluegrass, old-time, Celtic, African, country, folk, country - all kinds of music. It's only 1/2 hr away in Westminster, and kids 6-12 are only $5 for the day. Kids under 5 are free! I've been to this festival, and it's really fun - there are craft vendors, food, music on 4 stages, plus it's in the Carroll County Farm Museum, so there are the live animals and demonstrations from that to see as well. This festival was also named one of the Top 5 Tourism Events in the state by the MD Board of Tourism.

I hope you think others would enjoy it, too!

I do! Thanks, Maria!

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

Saturday, June 2, 2012

If your house flooded ...

Insurance Commissioner Therese M. Goldsmith advises Marylanders whose property was damaged by strong storms yesterday to follow these guidelines to help with any insurance claims they may file:

Contact your insurance company or agent immediately.

Take photographs or video footage of any damage.

If you have to relocate, even temporarily, make sure your insurance company or agent knows how to reach you.

Before you remove any damaged property from the premises, be sure an insurance adjuster or your agent has seen it first.

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Lost cat

The owner asked me to post this. Info here:

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Lock up those bikes

There were some kids in our alley today, I'm told, who were hovering around the bikes that were skattered about. They headed toward a couple of unattended bikes but luckily some dads saw them and intervened and the boys took off.

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

BGE says power should be back tonight

Our power is out and some of my friends in RF are out too. I called BGE and plugged in our phone numbers and was told power would be restored by 7:30 PM.

We rarely lose power so I don't have a lot of personal experience with BGE and the accuracy of their estimates.

(Short and sweet from my phone.)

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

Friday, June 1, 2012

It is insane out there

I hope everyone is safe. Dumbarton at Rodgers Forge Road (pictured) is a lake. Were you out? What was it like?

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And in related news ...

Feet on the Street in Towson and the Belvedere Square concert are both canceled because of the rain.

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Tornado watch until 9 pm

Details are here.

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