Back Bay Beach construction stopped

March 15, 1995|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,Sun Staff Writer

Anne Arundel County officials have stopped all work at Back Bay Beach amid allegations of forged or nonexistent deeds and titles crucial to the residential development on the West River.

"We yanked the grading permits," said Robert M. Pollock, senior assistant county attorney. "The building permits are rescinded."

Agreements on utilities and public works were suspended as well, and a model home was closed for lack of an occupancy permit, said Frank Ward, head of the permit application center.

Mr. Pollock said a preliminary county probe shows that the title to the roads and public easements, transferred to the county, appears to be worthless. The developer, BMCN Joint Venture Inc., and the four companies that make it up, do not own the roads and public easements and cannot deed them to the county.

"We are going to sit tight until they can prove to us they can convey good title to the roadway," Mr. Pollock said. "We told them, 'Cure the problem and you can go back to work.' "

At the center of the dispute is Bruce A. Krain, a former lawyer who operates a title company in Annapolis. He relinquished his license to practice law in Maryland on March 14, 1993, when he was suspected of misappropriating and misusing funds, according to the state Attorney Grievance Commission.

Four heirs of the original developer of Back Bay Beach conveyed the roads and easements to him in a deed dated Nov. 8, 1988. But last Oct. 31, one of the heirs, Helen Dunnington of Annapolis, signed an affidavit saying she neither signed the "forged deed" nor conveyed property interest to Mr. Krain. Robin M. Nicholson, who is representing the four, could not be reached yesterday.

Also, county researchers could not find a deed from Mr. Krain giving the roads and easements to the four corporations or to BMCN, Mr. Pollock said.

"He certified that he did, but I had our title abstracter check it. Our title people said it's just not there," Mr. Pollock said.

Mr. Krain referred questions to his attorney, Lawrence B. Goldstein. Mr. Goldstein said he is checking ownership records of every piece of Back Bay Beach. He said he doesn't know who owns the roads, or if it matters.

State law says property owners own out to the center of the road from their lot. The 22-acre development was platted in 1921 and predates the law. The development would have up to 96 houses.

Mr. Goldstein said that if the heirs own the roads and easements, "we are talking a different ball game. They are probably going to be demanding compensation for it from somebody."

Mr. Krain "could have held the title if he held title for BMCN's benefit. I think he had authority to take certain action for BMCN," Mr. Goldstein said.

Mr. Krain "used to be but is no longer the administrator of BMCN," said R. Jeffrey Lyman, a lawyer for BMCN. He said the partnership ended its relationship with Mr. Krain recently after it was told of allegations he forged the quit-claim deed from the four women.

"I know you are going to laugh, but we consider it Mr. Krain's problem," Mr. Lyman said. "We didn't forge the deed . . . if it was forged."

Nevertheless, no work is going on at Back Bay Beach, and BMCN's unhappy owners are monitoring the situation, he said.

Stopping the development, even temporarily, is a victory for the West River Federation, whose lawyer brought the issue to the county law office.

"That's what we wanted them to do," said Thomas J. Wohlegemuth, attorney for the group. The federation has long opposed the development on environmental grounds.

BMCN, which has been the subject of litigation for years, lost a case in February at the county Board of Appeals, has another case set for a June hearing, and sued the county and state Critical Area Commission in January. All issues pertain to lot size and waterfront protection.

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