Demolition process to stay on 'Fast Track'

March 05, 1999|By SCOTT BUTKI

Washington County has no plans to change its "Fast-Track" permit process following a misunderstanding that led to the demolition of a 1770s-era log house Tuesday, County Administrator Rodney Shoop said Friday.

The process was not at fault for the mess-up but rather it was human error and a verbal misunderstanding with a contractor, Wes Churchey, owner of Jefferson Home Builders Inc., Shoop said.

Personnel at the Washington County Permits and Inspections Department thought they were giving Churchey permission to demolish a small addition to a stone house at 19933 Mount Aetna Road, Shoop said. However, Churchey thought he was given verbal permission to demolish the entire house, Shoop said.

The county has no plans to fine the contractor since the county itself is a "party to the fiasco," said Paul Prodonovich, director of the Permits and Inspections Department.


Churchey and officials of Triad Property, the owner of the property, did not return phone calls Thursday or Friday.

In November 1998 Shoop gave William "Kelley" Vantz the quarterly Innovative Dedicated Employee Award for his efforts to streamline the building permit approval process. He initiated what county officials are calling the "Fast-Track process," which speeds up the time it takes to obtain a permit for a project.

The process is used mostly for projects that do not require approval by any other agency. For the demolition permit request the county needed approval from the Maryland Department of the Environment and that was given via a phone call, Shoop said.

Since county personnel knew Churchey they took him on his word that the property was not historical, Prodonovich said. However, a check of department computers would have shown it was a historical building, Prodonovich said.

While the process won't change, there is certainly increased awareness in the permits office to try to avoid similar mistakes, Shoop said.

"We believe the emphasis on customer service by receiving a permit while you wait remains a very important service to the citizens of Washington County," Shoop said. "With increased awareness we will adequately address problems that occurred in the past."

Churchey was given verbal authority to proceed and told the written permit would follow, Shoop said.

The building that was torn down was the main house on a plantation called Fox Deceived built by Conrad Hogmire. In 1776, Hogmire became one of the county's first commissioners. The house is near Black Rock Golf Course.

Normally demolition permits for homes are shown to Steve Goodrich, county chief senior planner, before being issued so he can ensure the building is not on a list of historic properties, Shoop said.

Churchey was given verbal authority Tuesday to proceed and the building was destroyed that day. The written permit request reached Goodrich's desk Wednesday morning.

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