Wyndham suit allowed to proceed But judge dismisses second challenge brought by project opponents

March 20, 1998|By Kate Shatzkin | Kate Shatzkin,SUN STAFF

A Baltimore Circuit Court judge has ruled that a lawsuit to block construction of a 31-story Wyndham Hotel in Inner Harbor East may proceed, but he has declined to stop the hotel's progress while the suit goes forward.

In an opinion issued Wednesday, Circuit Judge Richard T. Rombro dismissed a similar suit brought by the Scarlett Place Residential Condominium Association and the Waterfront Coalition, an umbrella group of nine homeowner and business groups, saying the groups lacked standing to challenge the procedures the City Council followed when it passed two bills in December to make way for the hotel.

But Rombro said that four residents of the area could sue the city as taxpayers challenging the approval of the Wyndham project, which they allege violates the city's development plan for Inner Harbor East.

Rombro wrote that "there have been a number of cases setting forth the taxpayer's right to challenge a legislative action." The neighbors claim the construction of hotel roads and other improvements would lead to an increase in taxes.

Residents of Fells Point and Canton have been lobbying for a smaller hotel than the 750-room Wyndham, which is being developed by a group led by bakery magnate John Paterakis Sr. The Little Italy Community Organization has supported the hotel plans.

Rombro declined to suspend the ordinance that allowed the project while the case is pending, writing that he planned to schedule the case for trial "so that the issues can be disposed of promptly." Parties in the suit are to schedule a timetable for the case Thursday.

John C. Murphy, who represented hotel opponents in both suits, said he was recommending that the dismissal of the Waterfront Coalition case be appealed. "The more important suit, from a substantive standpoint, is the second suit that says it was illegal to throw out the Inner Harbor East plan," he said. "We're delighted with that aspect."

Said City Solicitor Otho Thompson: "Certainly we're gratified and pleased the court dismissed the one case. We have a scheduling conference on the remaining case and would like to have that case put in line for a decision as soon as possible."

The project faces other possible hurdles, including a bill in the General Assembly to put approval of the hotel to a referendum this fall, and a City Council vote this month on a plan by Baltimore Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke to give the Wyndham $25 million in tax breaks.

Pub Date: 3/20/98

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