Roads & Maintenance
Roads/Maintenance gave Roland Park's paved "lanes" (alleys) to the city in 1990 when we could no longer afford to re-pave them. The city will repave lanes when requested by the majority of property owners abutting the lane and will bill all adjoining property owners for half of the cost of the repaving. If you wish to have your lane repaved, contact Michael Donovan at the Dept. of Transportation (410-396-6922 or e-mail).
Begun in 1891, Roland Park is an early example of a planned suburban community. The visionary developer, Edward Bouton, joined with the prominent landscape design firm of Olmsted Brothers and created what remains one of Baltimore’s preeminent residential districts. This design team later developed Guilford and Homeland as sister communities, before going on to develop Original Northwood and downtown Dundalk.
As neither Baltimore City nor Baltimore County were governed by zoning laws in those days, the Roland Park Company regulated development through a series of restrictive covenants placed in each deed. The restrictions in Roland Park governed sanitation, design, aesthetics and land use. At a time when 90 percent of Baltimore City relied on outdoor privies, Roland Parkers were required to have indoor plumbing, and livestock was prohibited. Most importantly for today, the covenants set standards for house placement and construction and mandated residential use of the lot. A permanent fee was also set, the proceeds of which were used to develop and maintain the streets, lanes, paths, sidewalks and common lands.
By 1909 the original sections of the Park were essentially complete, and the development company set up the Roland Park Roads and Maintenance Corporation (R&M) — transferring to it the common lands, covenant enforcement, and the collection and management of the maintenance fee (functions previously undertaken by the Roland Park Company itself). All stock in the corporation is now held by the Roland Park Civic League (organized in 1895 and incorporated in 1907). The officers and plat representatives of the Roads and Maintenance Corporation were and are all volunteers from within the community.
At midnight 31 December 1918/1 January 1919, Roland Park was annexed by Baltimore City, and between 1922 and 1925 Roads and Maintenance deeded the streets and the sanitary and storm water systems to the city. The city also gradually assumed services such as street lighting and trash removal, which had been a corporation responsibility prior to annexation.
In 1922, a homeowner unsuccessfully challenged the corporation’s right to collect the maintenance fee. In Wehr v. The Roland Park Company et al., the courts ruled that the maintenance services specified in the deeds were not an indivisible package and services could be transferred to the municipality without voiding the deed agreement. The right to collect the maintenance fee was again upheld in 1977. In The Roland Park Roads and Maintenance Corporation v. Glover, the court ruled that the corporation need not show that services equal in value to the basic fee were rendered to an individual homeowner but, rather, it need only show that the funds were spent on appropriate services in the community in general.
Annexation also brought the community under city zoning laws, which were very new in the 1920s. To this day, however, the covenants remain in effect on most properties. Homeowners must satisfy both city and community regulations. The Plat 1 covenants survive in the original form. The covenants in the other plats expired at set intervals and have been variously renewed. Our office can confirm the existence of a covenant for individual properties owners and provide a prototype form if your realtor or title company has failed to do so. The covenants work to preserve the character of Roland Park. They do not create a strict historic preservation zone. Alterations and new materials are allowed if they are compatible with the surroundings.
If one aspect of the planning of the Roland Park Company could be faulted, it would be the failure to provide a mechanism to periodically increase the required maintenance fee. The “basic fee” charged by the corporation is the same tax levied a century ago. To put our income and expenses in perspective, this fee was once approximately 25 percent of the property tax. The fee is now a rounding error compared to most Roland Park property-tax bills. Our files show that the corporation celebrated its improved financial outlook at annexation by raising the work crews' pay from 7 to 9 cents an hour! A century of inflation has made serious inroads into our purchasing power and has necessitated many changes over the years. We ceased to directly employ workmen in 1979, and our equipment was subsequently sold for scrap. All work is presently contracted out and supervised by volunteers.
Adapted from an introduction written by Anthony Pinto, M.D. in 1990 for a brochure called, “In Celebration of Roland Park 1891-1991: Sections from the files of the Roads and Maintenance Corporation.”
Roland Park Roads and Maintenance Corporation bylaws.
Services presently provided by the Roads and Maintenance Corporation include:
Roads and Maintenance is unable to function on just the basic fee. For several decades it has relied heavily on voluntary fees. In 1985 we began asking for a total of eight times the basic fee and approximately $100,000 is given voluntarily each year. The annual total of basic fees collected each year is only $26,000, but with the voluntary supplemental income our total annual revenues reach approximately $130,000. Slightly more than two thirds of the budget goes to pay the contractor for landscaping work. The remainder of the budget covers the shared expenses of maintaining the office with the Civic League and Community Foundation and miscellaneous variable costs such as plowing the lanes during heavy snows or legal costs. There is a small reserve fund which allows the corporation to function at the beginning of the year and to deal with emergencies and law suits. Every effort is made to spend the maintenance funds prudently. By purchasing services in bulk we are often able to provide them at significant savings. The prompt payment of the full fee by all residents is encouraged. Two billings are mailed per year.
Volunteers on the board annually contribute services roughly equal in value to the entire annual basic fees. These services include covenant work, architectural, legal, secretarial and office work, as well as some actual maintenance work in the paths and lanes. The board also supervises the office, our maintenance contractor, and acts as a liaison with the City. The board meets monthly at the home of one of its members or in a local church room to conduct business. A representative is sent to the monthly Civic League meeting to give a public report and to answer questions. A search committee is formed at the end of each year to nominate new board members. The Civic League must approve these nominees.
Roads and Maintenance shares a phone and office the Civic League — (410) 464-2525. All residents are encouraged to participate in the corporation’s effort to maintain and improve Roland Park. We welcome your constructive criticisms and expressions of concern.
The architectural review committee of Roland Park Roads & Maintenance will meet on the 4th Tuesday of each month. See the Community Calendar for dates of upcoming meetings.