Suit filed in Baltimore City Circuit Court: Mold’s at home in HarborView penthouse – $5 million lawsuit claiming negligent maintenance has damaged penthouse & threatened health & safety of family

by Brendan Kearney
Pub: Daily Record, The (Baltimore, MD)
Dolan Media Newswires
3/11/2010

BALTIMORE, MD — The man who lives at the top of downtown Baltimore’s HarborView tower has filed a $5 million lawsuit against the leaders of the condominium association, claiming their negligent maintenance of the waterfront building has damaged his penthouse and threatened the health and safety of his family.

James W. Ancel, a general contractor whose eponymous Towson company has built schools and other public facilities in the region, contends the slow response to water leaks has resulted in airborne mold floating into his 27th-floor abode and that lax security at the building is an ongoing risk. Ancel has an asthmatic child, according to the suit filed Wednesday in Baltimore City Circuit Court.

The defendants have spent association money “to enhance their condominium units and life styles,” according to the suit. For example, Molli Mezrich, president of the association (and the mother of bestselling author Ben Mezrich), allegedly used association resources to “re-marble the limited common elements” outside her penthouse.

“He just wants this stuff fixed,” said Matthew G. Hjortsberg, Ancel’s lawyer. Ancel declined to comment, deferring to Hjortsberg, a partner at Bowie & Jensen LLC, who also represented Ancel’s company in a January bid protest regarding the contract to renovate Milford Mill Academy.

Four of the five individual defendants named in the suit, lawyers and businessmen, could not be reached Thursday. Reached between seeing patients at Barenburg Eye Associates, Dr. Joshua S. Gordon, secretary of the condo association, said the suit and its allegations were “news to me.”

“I guess we’ll have to see how that all plays out,” said Gordon, who has “loved” his decade at HarborView. “A lot of those [claims] are surprising to me.”

Franklin C. Wise, who is slated to receive the suit on behalf of the condo association, said his company developed the 16-year-old, 249-unit building but is no longer involved in its management.

“I honestly know nothing about it whatsoever,” Wise said of the claims, before adding, “I suspect there’s always two sides to a story.”

Ancel, 48, bought the property through a limited liability corporation, Penthouse 4C LLC, in April 2007. In June 2008, a maintenance report suggested replacement of ductwork insulation, checking on roof leaks and inspection of the rooftop HVAC systems, among other issues. To date, according to the suit, many of the issues “remain unaddressed.”

Board members have ignored Ancel’s maintenance advice and excluded him from the decision-making process “even though he’s a general contractor who has completed hundreds of millions of dollars worth of work.”

“Whenever you get a building like that you’re going to get an interesting group of people because of the limited pool of people that can buy there,” Hjortsberg said of 100 Harborview Drive. “You’re going to get people with strong personalities and you’re going to get people who are very opinionated.”

Ancel also alleges lobby doors have not locked for at least four months, security paddle keys in the elevators have not worked for the past eight months, and other security doors have not worked for “several months.”

Ancel owns baseballs signed by every American president since Teddy Roosevelt and a collection of Yankee great Lou Gehrig’s letters, among other rare artifacts, according to a 2005 Baltimore Sun article.

“If you had that collection, you’d be concerned about security, too,” Hjortsberg said.

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One Response to Suit filed in Baltimore City Circuit Court: Mold’s at home in HarborView penthouse – $5 million lawsuit claiming negligent maintenance has damaged penthouse & threatened health & safety of family

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