Beveridge & Diamond
 

Buffington Office Building

New Development Permitted on Designated Historic Property

Beveridge & Diamond, P.C. helped its client subdivide a parcel containing a designated historic site, and construct a new office building on the newly created lot. Taking into account the community's concerns about design, architecture, historic preservation, and the need for community meeting space, the project was approved and completed successfully with strong community support.

Our client faced a dilemma. It owned a two-acre parcel zoned for commercial use in a suburban town center in Maryland and wished to build an office building on the property. Sitting on the property, however, was the town center's "crown jewel," a large, 200-year-old house converted decades ago to a popular restaurant; and the entire two-acre parcel, including the sizable house and its outbuildings, had been designated as an historic site by Montgomery County. This meant any new, substantial development on the property was highly problematic.

Beveridge & Diamond began the project by sitting down with the client to ascertain how big an office building it needed for its operation, and which commercial tenants it desired to occupy the building. Following that, we met with and received the support of the restaurant owner in the historic house with a plan to subdivide the parcel, then construct the new building on the separate lot, linking the two lots with a uniform site plan. Next, we retained an architect known to the county's historic preservation commission and a site planner respected by the planning commission to design a building and a site plan in which the new building would occupy fully half the site, leaving the historic building on a separate and improved lot.

We then met with the town's community association to present our plan and seek its guidance on design, architecture, and historic preservation as well as any community concerns. A major need in the town was to have sufficient meeting spaces available for community groups. Our client offered to provide such a space (with a kitchen) on the ground level of the proposed three-story office building at no cost to local users.

Despite the initial and emphatic opposition of the historic preservation commission (HPC) and its staff to any new development on the property, especially a large building, the planning commission and its staff approved subdivision of the parcel into two one-acre lots (partly in the name of "smart growth" in a town center). With the historic property now divided into separate lots, the HPC could no longer prevent development on the vacant lot, but it did control what could be built. Within six months, with strong community support, Beveridge & Diamond's client got all the space it desired (almost 20,000 square feet) in a building design and site plan ultimately found acceptable by the HPC.