The Chabad center in Towson that serves students of nearby Towson University has won a reprieve as a Baltimore County Circuit Court judge ruled Thursday in favor of delaying a court-ordered demolition of the center pending an appeal.
Friends of Lubavitch, Inc., which owns the Rohr Chabad Jewish Center at Towson and Goucher at 14 Aigburth Road, was granted a stay of the demolition ordered by Judge Kathleen Cox. The demolition was originally ordered for March 2018 and has been through multiple appeals since. The structure, a three-story, $800,000 addition to the existing home that had been functioning as a Chabad center since 2008, was found to be in violation of a neighborhood covenant that required a longer setback from the street.
Because of the covenant and questions about zoning violations, neighbors and the Aigburth Manor Association of Towson, Inc. tried to halt construction of the addition, but the building was completed by the time their case got to court.
FOL and Rabbi Mendy Rivkin and his wife Sheiny, who run the center, had asked to move the structure back to be in compliance with the covenant, which will be considered as part of the appeal. While awaiting the appeal, FOL must post a $125,000 bond to cover the cost of demolition.
Meanwhile, FOL and the Rivkins filed suit Dec. 20 in federal court against Baltimore County citing religious discrimination. In the suit, which cites federal religious land use provisions, the plaintiffs claim that Baltimore County officials falsely accused Rabbi Rivkin of violating local zoning regulations when he applied for a permit to build the addition onto the Rivkins’ home. The county, after two years of legal proceedings, ordered the addition demolished.
Attorney Nathan Lewin, who is representing FOL and the Rivkins, said Friday that he didn’t think the federal case would have any effect on the demolition appeal process. Regarding the federal case, Lewin said the attorneys and plaintiffs have “consented to a 30-day extension requested by the attorney for the county to answer our complaint.”