Bolton Street Sues Evergreen Association

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Bolton Street Synagogue in Baltimore is suing the Evergreen Community Association over the synagogue’s future plans for an educational facility in the neighborhood.

According to court documents filed on Nov. 10, two years after the synagogue purchased property at 212 W. Cold Spring Lane in October 2000, it signed an agreement with the neighborhood association stipulating that the property be used only “for religious purposes (including education and social purposes), and other non-commercial purposes.”

At the time of the agreement, the synagogue had approximately 250 members, while its religious school served about 160 children. But according to the complaint, membership has declined to about 130 members, and the synagogue has been operating at a significant deficit for the past two years.

In an attempt to close the budget gap, the synagogue reached out to other organizations about leasing the Cold Spring Lane property, but according to the documents, “Evergreen has taken the position that any lease agreement … would be a violation” of the agreement it signed with the synagogue. Evergreen’s argument, according to the synagogue, is that such leases “would constitute a commercial use of [the] property.”

“The [community association] is concerned how that will impact the neighborhood,” said Harold Weisbaum, Bolton Street’s attorney. “We’re not sure what the concerns are, we’re trying to work out the details.”

The president of the Evergreen Community Association declined to comment, and other requests for comment from members went unanswered.

In order to enter into a lease agreement for its property, the synagogue would be legally obligated to disclose the objections made by Evergreen. The suit is asking that the synagogue be “free to enter into a lease agreement with any organization that provides religious, social, education, non-profit or community services or any other non-commercial purpose … and that non-commercial lease agreements will not be a violation” of the original agreement with the community association.

“The suit was filed because we needed a deadline,” said Weisbaum. “We need a time by which someone can decide what we can and can’t do. … We all prefer to work it out by agreement and we’re working on that.”

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