Woodward & Lothrop Inc. opened another round yesterday in its ongoing legal fight to stop a mall expansion that will bring rival Nordstrom within a mile of its Annapolis store.
In the latest challenge to Annapolis Mall's plans to double its size with a Nordstrom department store and about 50 smaller shops, Woodies appealed a permit allowing construction of a 120,000-square-foot addition for the shops. The county has issued a separate permit for the 150,000-square-foot Nordstrom.
Michigan-based Woodies, which has a store in nearby Parole Plaza, is charging in several pending legal actions that state and Anne Arundel County officials ignored due process and conspired with mall developers to sidestep environmental laws.
The latest challenge, filed late yesterday with the county Board of Appeals, contends that county officials granted the mall's permit Oct. 9 but failed to properly notify the public. Because of that, Woodies missed the 30-day appeal period, said Neil T. Proto, a Woodies attorney.
"It seems to have been pretty deliberate," said Mr. Proto, who said he learned of the permit Nov. 20, when the county placed the information into a computerized phone service that gives the status of permits.
"This is such a radical departure from the norm. This is highly suspect. It's hard to imagine the mall's developers or the county didn't know what was going on."
Mall officials, who vow to continue with work that's been extensively reviewed by state and local officials, called the appeal another in a long line of "harassment techniques" that began when Woodies learned Nordstrom was coming to Annapolis.
"We find the whole thing curious," said Rodney D. Haynes, vice president of development for the mall's manager. "They are raising bogus issues. They can't get anyone to listen and can't get any government agency to say they're right. These harassment techniques . . . are not working on us."
Woodies' appeal says the county's public notification system offered false and misleading information. It says the county allowed Annapolis Mall to pay permit fees into an escrow account rather than directly to the Department of Finance. Therefore, information about the granting of the permit never made it into the county's courtesy phone service until on or about Nov. 20.
Woodies has legal standing to challenge the permit because of its proximity to the mall, the appeal said.
Bill Bryant, the county's chief building inspector, said the county must notify the public only if it grants a permit to build on waterfront property. The county offers the building permit information phone line as a courtesy, not as a matter of law, he said.