Glen Burnie location for prison challenged

March 18, 1994|By John Rivera | John Rivera,Sun Staff Writer

Persuasion failed. Now three North County council members will try a long-shot legal maneuver to stop construction of a detention center in Glen Burnie.

The councilmen -- C. Edward Middlebrooks, D-Severn, Carl G. Holland, R-Pasadena and George F. Bachman, D-Linthicum -- say that when the county bought the 85-acre property on Ordnance Road, it did so with the condition that it be used only for industrial or commercial purposes.

However, the County Council voted 4-3 Wednesday night to use the Glen Burnie site for a new jail.

The North County lawmakers yesterday wrote to Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr., asking for an opinion on whether the Ordnance Road property can be used for a jail in light of those restrictions.

They will probably have to wait until County Attorney Judson P. Garrett Jr. rules on the matter, because the attorney general has a written policy that he will not advise local officials until the local law office has rendered an opinion, said Jack Schwartz, chief counsel for the opinions, advice and legislation division.

Mr. Garrett said that he already has begun his review, anticipating that his opinion will be requested.

Mr. Middlebrooks said he first noticed the clause last week after he requested a copy of the deed in preparation for council hearings on the proposed jail site. "You never know what you'll stumble across," said Mr. Middlebrooks, who is a lawyer with a private practice in Glen Burnie.

Anne Arundel County bought the property for $1.15 million in October 1980 from the federal General Services Administration. The county received a loan of $818,500 from the state Department of Economic and Community Development (now, the Department of Economic and Employment Development) to assist in the purchase.

A Declaration of Restriction that accompanies the deed and mortgage agreement says that the state made the loan on condition that the land "be used primarily for industrial and commercial purposes."

The declaration also prohibits the land from being used for residential purposes for 50 years, unless a residential use is approved in writing by the secretary of the state agency.

"That property was conveyed [to the county] for economic development purposes," and that means it has to appear on the tax rolls, Mr. Holland said.

"A prison by no stretch of the imagination generates any income," he said. "Prisons don't pay taxes."

"That site should not be considered because according to the deed it could revert back to the person who gave it to us," Mr. Holland said.

Atwood B. Tate, legislative counsel to the council, said he advised Mr. Middlebrooks before Wednesday night's hearing that the language of the declaration would seem to preclude building a jail unless the county secured a waiver from the state.

"I believe that the state will have to decide what the language means," Mr. Tate said. "If I were looking at this as an attorney, I would have grave concerns whether you could use it as a prison."

But Mr. Middlebrooks conceded that the move is a long shot. He does not seriously expect either the state or the federal government to take control of the property if the restrictions are violated, because the site, contaminated with small amounts of radioactive soil, is not desirable.

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