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Mobtown Beat

Falling Down

Investors Collapse Yet Another House

Frank Klein
POSTED: "All Permits Suspended" at 315 S. Collington Ave.

By Edward Ericson Jr. | Posted 11/15/2006

A house collapse last week on South Collington Avenue left Kimberly Brown's home of five years uninhabitable and Brown searching for answers.

"I couldn't get any response from the city, and when I called the owner he was unresponsive," says Brown, who has lived at 313 S. Collington in Upper Fells Point for about five years.

In the weeks leading up to the collapse, the owners of 315 S. Collington had dismantled the home, removing all floor joists and both front and back walls, according to witnesses.

"They decided to demo[lish] the entire unit. Then dig footers," Brown says, "which compromised it and led to the collapse."

Houses all over Baltimore's waterfront neighborhoods are being demolished without demolition permits, sometimes collapsing in the process ("Collapse," July 26 and Aug. 2 ). Neighbors whose property is damaged say that city housing officials do little to halt the practice, despite laws and regulations that appear to protect the public.

Brown says she came home on the morning of Wednesday, Nov. 8, to find that the second-floor wall that she shares with 315 S. Collington had fallen, exposing the studs and wiring in her wall. The sally port between the properties was also damaged, she says, and the home on the other side of the property, 317, was damaged as well. Brown says the investors who did this had taken down and rebuilt a house across the street previously. "And it worked," she says. "They did have some problems, but nothing like this."

State tax records say the owner of the collapsed structure, 315 S. Collington, is Sean Flynn, whose mailing address is in Miami. Flynn bought the building for $166,500 a few months ago, according to records. A message left at his Miami phone number was not returned before press time.

On Aug. 1, Charles Toulson represented the property in a hearing before the city Board of Municipal and Zoning Appeals, which granted a request for a three-story rear addition and roof deck. Calls to several listed phone numbers, including a classified advertisement for a home rental under Toulson's name, were not returned before press time.

Brown says Toulson gave her a card last summer saying he is chief resident at Johns Hopkins' Department of Orthopaedic Surgery. She says Toulson, Flynn, and another Miami investor own 315 S. Collington.

Brown says Toulson's workers caused a water-main leak in September, flooding her basement. "Dr. Toulson--apparently I woke him up the first time I called," she says. "He asked, `Which property is that?' He was just kind of real flip about it--like, it's just water. That made me realize he was not most likely someone I could deal with."

Brown says calls to the city eventually resulted in the water being shut off.

The city issued construction permits for "nonstructural" interior demolition to 315 S. Collington on June 30. On Sept. 27 another permit was issued for a three-story rear addition and rooftop deck, and on Nov. 6 the city issued another permit, for electrical work.

Despite the lack of structural-demolition permits, neighbor Christopher McNally says the home's interior floors were removed and the front wall came down about a week before the collapse. Then, he says, workers dug trenches along the home's foundation walls. The homes on both sides were undermined, he says.

A city inspector placed a stop-work order on 315 S. Collington on Nov. 8, McNally says.

City Paper could not determine the identity of the contractor as of press time.

An agent of the city Office of the Inspector General says he will investigate the collapse.

Brown says her insurance company has helped her. She has moved out of her home but says that it has not been condemned. She says city inspectors should do more to prevent collapses.

"The first person I called at the city, the lady was confused and she said, 'Well I understand it collapsed, but what do you want the city to do?'" Brown says. "I said, `Where do I start? I want the city to protect people. I mean, someone could have died in the collapse. I want you to restrict permits from these people.'"

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