City Council will vote whether to condemn homes

July 25, 1994|By James M. Coram | James M. Coram,Sun Staff Writer

In most cases, County Council members are reluctant to condemn a resident's property for a public purpose -- especially in an election year.

Tonight, they may have to vote on two separate condemnations.

In one case, members must decide whether 6,500 square feet of property belonging to Barbara C. Winchester must be taken by the county to assure public safety.

Ronald G. Lepson, chief of the bureau of engineering, took that position at a council hearing last week. He said the county needs the property at the intersection of Route 108 and Trotter Road for road realignment to make sure motorists will have a clear line of sight when approaching the intersection.

Ms. Winchester did not testify, much to the chagrin of council members, who wanted to hear her side of the story.

In the past, when public officials have been unable to agree on a price with property owners, the council has told the parties to continue negotiating.

Since the county and Ms. Winchester have been unable to agree on a price, the council must either approve the request to condemn the property, or put the request on hold.

The council opted for just such a delay in another case coming before members in tonight's 8 p.m. legislative session.

In that case, the county wants 31 acres owned by a Silver Spring couple for inclusion in the Middle Patuxent Environmental Area. The property lies between 66 county-owned acres and 950 acres that the Rouse Co. plans to give the county for the environmental area.

Works Director James M. Irvin asked the council last October for permission to sue Walter and Susan Madigosky, saying they and the county were far apart as to price.

The couple told the council in the Oct. 18 hearing that they have been negotiating with the county since 1978, but perhaps have not taken the most recent offers as seriously as they might have.

They told the council that the county was now offering them a third of what they had been offered previously for the acres and that they had been told to accept the offer or be sued.

The couple asked the council at that time to delay any court action for six months in order to give them time to hire a lawyer and to counter the county's offer with new appraisals. The council agreed.

The six months is now up, and the council is planning to vote on the condemnation request tonight.

Last week, Councilman Charles C. Feaga, R-5th, and Council Chairman C. Vernon Gray, D-3rd, expressed reluctance to approve the request, saying it was not an issue of public health or safety.

"I'm not comfortable taking land for a park," Mr. Feaga said.

Mr. Gray agreed, saying that the taking of private property is a last resort that should only be done for a public purpose where the health, safety or welfare of residents is at stake.

Among other legislation, the council will also consider a $128,000 grant that would let the sheriff's department manage 1,000 clients in the court's community service alternative sentencing program.

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