Supreme Court turns down Arundel developer

March 21, 1995|By Lyle Denniston | Lyle Denniston,Washington Bureau of The Sun

WASHINGTON -- An Anne Arundel County developer, dissatisfied with the price the government paid when it seized some 250 acres near Fort Meade, failed to get the Supreme Court yesterday to revive its claim for $300 million more in payments.

Without explanation, the court turned aside an appeal by the developer, BW Parkway Associates.

The appeal grew out of an effort by the secret National Security Agency to block the company's commercial development by creating a security buffer zone around its Fort Meade site.

BW Parkway had lost its plea in lower courts, and the Supreme Court voted not to disturb those results. The Justice Department had urged the court to pass up the appeal.

The company contended that NSA made it impossible to develop BW Parkway's land, thus destroying the land's value and allowing the government to condemn the land and take it over at far below market value.

BW Parkway includes among its partners Melvin J. Berman, one of the key figures in the development of the planned city of Columbia.

The developer had planned a new town center, Colony Fairfield, along the east side of the Baltimore-Washington Parkway. The developer bought 258 acres bordering on the parkway and Route 32.

The town center was to include 3,000 housing units in high-rise apartment buildings and single-family homes, plus office buildings and stores to serve the Fort Meade area.

Because the land on the east edge bordered Fort Meade, NSA was concerned that its secret operations could be spied on from high buildings in the development. It set out in 1968 to stop the project.

Its main argument was not a blunt plea to bar all development, but instead a claim that highway congestion was so great that plans should not proceed.

It persuaded state and county officials to move cautiously on project permits.

In 1985, however, the developer notified NSA that plans to begin building the project were going ahead. NSA tried to buy the land, offering $9.7 million. After negotiations over the sale broke down, the government condemned the land, and the partnership was awarded $21.7 million in compensation.

In 1989, the developer sued the government for $300 million in additional compensation for the lost development opportunity.

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