Lawsuit aims to block research park at UMBC

July 12, 1995|By Liz Atwood | Liz Atwood,Sun Staff Writer

Two Arbutus men have filed suit trying to block construction of a 93-acre research park at the University of Maryland Baltimore County.

The suit filed in county Circuit Court alleges that the County Council illegally appropriated money for the project. It was served on county officials yesterday at the same time the county's Board of Appeals was considering other issues raised by the project's opponents.

Although county officials said they hadn't had time to review the suit in detail, they dismissed the charges as groundless.

"The UMBC project has been overwhelmingly supported by both the past and current county councils and deliberations were held in open, public meetings," county spokesman Michael H. Davis said. "Therefore we believe this suit is meritless."

Plaintiffs Charles G. MacGill of the 300 block of Gun Road and Charles A. Kucera of the 1200 block of Maiden Choice Lane are asking the court to issue an injunction blocking construction until their case can be heard.

They claim that the council violated the county charter in 1993 when it transferred $450,000 in bond money from a revitalization fund to pay for construction of roads and other utilities at the research park. The plaintiffs say the transfer was illegal because the UMBC project did not appear in the county's capital budget or in bond referendums before the voters.

The $450,000 approved by the county was a prerequisite for a $1 million federal grant the project received.

The suit is the latest in a number of attempts community activists have made during the past six years to block the research park proposed for the campus site bounded by Route 166, Sulphur Spring Road and UMBC Boulevard.

Before the Board of Appeals, opponents are appealing a ruling made by a county zoning commissioner approving the park. In the first day of testimony yesterday, lawyer Thomas E. Dernoga, representing the opponents, said the project threatens wetlands and archaeological sites and would create traffic and sewage backups.

UMBC has said that the park could bring 2,000 jobs to the Catonsville area during the next 20 years and boost the university's image as a research institution. The project is one of Baltimore County's top economic development priorities.

"This is going to bring jobs to the district," said Councilman Stephen G. Sam Moxley, a Catonsville Democrat.

University officials said they still hope to break ground on the project next month.

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