Several residents in a Towson community became upset when the Friends of Lubavitch Inc., a Jewish organization, constructed a 6,614-square-foot, two-story structure in their neighborhood. Several residents questioned if the structure would be utilized as a religious gathering place, even though a submitted building permit specified it would serve as a residence to Rabbi Mendy Rivkin and his family.
The Friends of Lubavitch Inc. has operated the Chabad of Towson and Goucher for more than eight years, providing innumerable programs and activities to the community and Jewish students from the Towson University and Goucher College. Chabad of Towson and Goucher utilize the idiom “Jewish home away from home” to describe itself.
The Baltimore County Court judge Susan Souder ruled on April 7 that in building the structure at 14 Aigburth Road, Lubavitch officials violated a covenant in a 1950 deed. According to the lawsuit, the structure is 53 feet from the road and the covenant restriction required it to be at least 115 feet from the road.
According to Rivkin’s testimony, construction of the $800,000 structure was well underway, when he found out about the setback requirements. Judge Souder ruled that Lubavitch officials were aware of the restrictions before construction was to begin, because the title insurance noted these requirements. Restriction prohibited the organization from filing a claim for any structure damage that is too close to the road.
“We’re obviously very disappointed with the outcome,” Friends of Lubavitch attorney Kimberly Manuelides said Friday. Manuelides said the group has not yet decided whether it will appeal the ruling.
The owner of the residence next to the Chabad property, Robin Zoll, testified in court that the new structure decreased the value of her property by 5 percent or $17,075.
“I couldn’t be happier,” Zoll said Thursday of the ruling. “We waited a very long time for something to be done about this building. … Unfortunately the damage that this organization, Friends of Lubavitch, has done to our lives and community could have been prevented if Baltimore County had enforced its zoning laws to begin with.”