of them showed up at a community meeting on Feb. 19 not only to
protest what one called "the wanton destruction of an historical
resource" but also to plot strategy to oppose the company before
county authorities and possibly in court.
The meeting was unusual in two
respects, according to Jim Jones, president of the Paladin Club
Master Association, under whose auspices the meeting was held.
It was the first time in current memory that members of all four
condominium associations in the community have mustered around
and the first time that no official of Edgewood Village Llc.,
the building firm's Paladin development subsidiary, didn't show
up at a condominium association meeting.
Since the controversy broke out in
late January, company officials have not responded to Delaforum
requests for comment.
Lawyer Richard Abbott told the
meeting that it is too soon to determine whether there is any
way to compel restoration of the wall, but that his research of
property deeds so far has produced a strong indication that
condominium ownership rights of residents along Paladin Drive
may enable them to block a pending
County official James
Edwards (right) makes a point at a Paladin Club community
meeting. Other presenters are lawyer Richard Abbott (seated)
and Jim Jones, president of one of four condominium
associations in the community.
the company to build townhouses with 38 units on the hillside at
the base of which the wall stood.
more, Abbott said, a somewhat quirky arrangement, which
evidently goes back to the original Paladin development company,
may enable them to exert control over the community clubhouse,
tennis courts and swimming pool.
Edwards, inspections manager for the county Department of Land
Use, announced that the department has rejected an Edgewood
Village plan to stabilize the hillside by leveling off its
slope. "We sent it (the plan) back to their drawing board"
with orders to come up with something less intrusive and in line
with "our desire to preserve as much as possible the status
quo," he said.
previously had expressed concern that stabilization could be
undertaken in such a way as to preclude reconstruction of the
wall. As Delaforum previously reported, Wendy Danner, Edgewood
Village's lawyer, said at a land use administrative hearing on
the county's order to halt demolition of the wall that
stabilization "would be a solution to what we're here for
Edwards said he "is not sure we (the county) have the power to
order them to put back the wall," he said it is intended to
formally move the question of its significance before the
autonomous Historic Review Board. A county inspector reportedly
had advised the board that the wall had no historic
resident Roy Jackson vehemently disagrees with that conclusion.
He said it is "at least 150 years old" and, along with the
clubhouse, a remnant of the William Sellers family estate. The
Sellers, in turn, were involved with Edgemoor Iron Works, "which
built bridges all over the world," Jackson said.
proposed to the review board that it establish an historic
zoning overlay on the entire Paladin complex, which is a
redevelopment of the post-World War II Clifton Park Manor, an
early suburban apartment complex.
to preserve [the community's] historic values ... so we can live
in history and not just look at it," Jackson told the meeting.
he has contacted a stonemason in Pennsylvania, who specializes
in historic-related restoration, and was told that rebuilding
the wall to something close to resembling the original structure
could be done at a cost of between $200,000 and $300,000.
Councilman Robert Weiner, who represents the area, said "a
proper remedy [for violating county development law] might be
recreation of the wall using the historic rocks."
stopped short of advocating restoring the wall, but did point
out that Edgewood Village is under an order to preserve the
rocks against that possibility.
Yet to be
determined is whether taking down the wall amounted to jumping
the gun on a significant element of a development plan which has
not been approved. That would violate the Unified Development
said an even more lethal economic weapon might well be exerting
rights evidently granted by the deed by which the former
developer, Tall Trees Associates, conveyed the 53-acre Paladin
property to Pettinaro, the successful bidder in a court-ordered
bankruptcy auction, in 1993. It states that condominium owners
who bought properties from Tall Trees retain all ownership
rights that went with those sales.
the rights, Abbott said, is apparent joint ownership of Paladin
Drive, a private road, and much of the hillside. Without clear
title to the hillside, he explained, Pettinaro cannot build the
townhouses. At best, he said, the firm may own outright enough
land for about 10 units and that could easily render the
proposed project uneconomic.
other hand, Abbott said his research seems to indicate that
joint ownership title to the clubhouse, tennis courts and
swimming pool was never turned over to condominium owners,
although sales literature and other material refer to them as
as news, and something of a shock, to several at the meeting who
thought they were. They have been paying $50 a month toward
maintenance and operation of those facilities under a provision
in the contract by which they purchased their units.
the contracts do not specify ownership rights, Abbott said, a
court is likely to entertain a strong 'equity' argument that
having collected the fees for several years under such apparent
pretense, conveys a comparable interest in them.