Circuit judge hears opponents' appeal of UMBC research park

December 18, 1997|By Liz Atwood | Liz Atwood,SUN STAFF

A Baltimore County circuit judge reacted with skepticism yesterday to claims by opponents of the UMBC Research Park that county officials acted illegally when they approved the 41-acre project on a corner of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County campus.

"You are in short pants," Judge Robert E. Cahill admonished lawyer Thomas E. Dernoga when he argued that his clients had been harmed because a recording of a zoning hearing was inaudible.

Although Cahill did not rule yesterday, he peppered Dernoga with skeptical comments and took advantage of Dernoga's verbal missteps throughout the half-hour proceeding.

The court appearance was the latest skirmish in the almost-10-year battle over the $40 million research park.

UMBC wants to build five buildings for high technology and biological research on the edge of its campus, but residents have fought the project, saying it would lead to congested roads and harm the environment.

Dernoga, representing several residents from Arbutus and Catonsville, presented four mostly technical reasons the judge should overrule the county's approval of the research park. He argued that:

A tape recording of the zoning commissioner's hearing should have been made available to the Board of Appeals. A recording was made, but parts were inaudible.

The criteria the county used to determine the project's compatibility with the neighborhood were inadequate.

Engineers did not consider alternative designs for the project that would have been less environmentally harmful.

UMBC should have gone through the county's subdivision process before leasing the land to the UMBC Research Park Corp.

Dernoga unsuccessfully made those arguments to the county's Board of Appeals in the spring in attempting to defeat the plan.

Work on the research park has proceeded in spite of the court proceedings because opponents could not raise a $250,000 bond that a judge required before he would halt the work.

Pub Date: 12/18/97

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