A Baltimore County Circuit Court judge has ordered that a controversial 6,614-square-foot structure a religious organization built in a residential neighborhood in Towson must come down within the next year.
The decision is the latest in a legal battle between Friends of Lubavitch Inc. and the organization’s neighbors in the community of Aigburth Manor, who say that the structure the organization built at 14 Aigburth Road is out of character with the neighborhood, has decreased the value of surrounding property and led to parking problems.
Friends of Lubavitch Inc. owns the Chabad of Towson and Goucher, which has operated at 14 Aigburth Road for more than eight years.
The structure, which Lubavitch officials say serves as a residence to Rabbi Mendy Rivkin, his wife and children and was built as an addition to an existing house on the property, is also used to host weekly dinners, holiday gatherings and other events for Jewish students from Towson University and Goucher College.
Chabad of Towson and Goucher describes itself as a “Jewish home away from home.” According to its Facebook page, it offers a wide variety of activities and programs, including five-course Shabbat dinners every Friday night, Judaism classes and a weekly womens’ lunch.
Some neighbors have said they believe the primary purpose of the structure is as a religious gathering place.
On April 7, Baltimore County Circuit Court judge Susan Souder ruled that, in building the structure where it did at 14 Aigburth Road, Lubavitch officials violated a covenant in a 1950 deed requiring that the structure be at least 115 feet from the road, and that the organization must remove the structure from the property by March 1, 2018. The structure is less than 60 feet from the road, according to the lawsuit.
Rivkin testified that he had no knowledge of the covenant restriction until July 2016, but that, by then, Chabad had already begun construction of the structure, which he said cost $800,000.
Lubavitch officials called the setback covenant “unambiguous and unenforceable.” A surveyor for the group testified that he measured the distance from the physical center of the property and not the front edge of the property to the street.
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