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Baltimore County inspection official waived project fees, received favors: IG report

The former director of the Department of Permits, Approvals, and Inspections in Baltimore County, Maryland, improperly waived millions of dollars in fees on a large mixed-use development between 2011 and 2018, with the practice continuing after he left, according to a new report by the county’s inspector general.

The 109-page report details how Arnold Jablon, in his capacity as director of the inspections department for Baltimore County, allegedly waived at least $3 million in securities and fees for the $220 million Metro Centre at Owings Mills project, in violation of Baltimore County code and contrary to all legal agreements regarding the project, according to an OIG press release shared with Construction Dive.

The report claims that Jablon, who retired in 2018, received improper benefits from the project’s developer, David S. Brown Enterprises, such as access to basketball tickets to NCAA Big Ten Conference games and a free parking spot at one of the company’s residential developments for an extended period.

Prior to his tenure as permits director starting in 2011, Jablon worked as a lawyer at Venable LLP in 2003, the same firm that represents David S. Brown Enterprises in its Metro Centre work, according to the Baltimore Sun.

Both Jablon and David S. Brown Enterprises declined to comment when contacted by Construction Dive.

The Metro Centre at Owings Mills (pictured above) consists of residential units, office and retail space, a hotel, parking garages, a branch of the Baltimore County Public Library and a building for the Community College of Baltimore County. Construction started on the project in 2011, and it is expected to be completely built out by 2028

The project has benefited from state legislation to incentivize construction, such as the creation of a special tax district and designating the Centre as a transit-oriented development, which qualified it for tax-increment financing, according to the report.

Looking ahead

The OIG report estimates that due to the size and scope of the project, the amount of the waived fees climbed into the millions. Although Jablon’s successor objected, the fee waivers continued even after Jablon had left office.

In September, the county told the developer that it intended to honor Jablon’s waiver. However, the OIG found no evidence that the Baltimore County Council was ever notified of this decision, according to the report.

The county has since agreed to uphold the fee waiver, and said that it intended to fulfill all past agreements made by the former administration.

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