Lawsuit against hotel rejected Judge dismisses 2nd of residents' 3 filings to halt Wyndham plans

August 14, 1998|By Caitlin Francke | Caitlin Francke,SUN STAFF

Residents fighting the construction of the 31-story Wyndham Inner Harbor East Hotel lost another battle yesterday when a Baltimore Circuit judge dismissed the second of three lawsuits filed to halt the hotel.

In a sharply worded opinion, Judge Richard T. Rombro did not agree with the residents' claims that the city had violated its development plan when it approved the hotel.

"This court does not doubt the sincerity of the plaintiffs, but sincerity and zeal cannot overcome the facts and the law in this case," Rombro wrote in the opinion released yesterday. "The plaintiffs have, in effect, fired a blunderbuss at the ordinance hoping that some of the shot would find a mark. It does not."

The dismissal left the plaintiffs discouraged, but they vowed to continue the fight against the hotel they say will ruin their neighborhood.

"We're not giving up," said Carolyn Boitnott, a member of the Waterfront Coalition and one of the plaintiffs. "This action is not going to cause us to give up."

Fells Point and Canton residents have been lobbying for a smaller hotel than the planned 750-room Wyndham, which is being developed by a group led by bakery magnate John Paterakis Sr.

Yesterday, the hotel's backers hailed Rombro's ruling as a victory.

"So far, they've been wrong and we've been right," said Gerald R. Walsh, an attorney representing Roberto Marsili, who supports the hotel and became a defendant in the case. Marsili is president of Little Italy Community Organization.

Pat Lupsha, senior vice president of operations for Wyndham Hotel Group, released a statement yesterday saying: "We are pleased that Judge Rombro viewed Wyndham Baltimore Inner Harbor as a go-forward project."

The statement said construction will begin by Sept. 30 with the opening scheduled for a year later. "We will bring hundreds of new jobs to the residents both during the construction and operation phases. And we will continue to promote Baltimore as the destination of choice for meeting planners and travelers through our national and international network," the statement said.

The legal challenges to the hotel are not over. Boitnott filed a third suit challenging the legality of the hotel's tax exemption in June. Arguments in that case are scheduled for next month. Her group also appealed the March dismissal of the first suit. No decision has been made in that case.

The first suit, brought by the Scarlett Place Residential Condominium Association and the Waterfront Coalition, an umbrella group of nine homeowner and business groups, was dismissed when the judge ruled the groups lacked standing to challenge the procedures the City Council followed when it passed two bills in December to allow the hotel.

He allowed residents to file as taxpayers, which was the suit dismissed yesterday. Rombro ruled the plaintiffs had not proven they would be damaged by the hotel with an increase in taxes or suffer a pecuniary loss.

The suit filed in June is an effort to reduce the project's size. The suit names the mayor, City Council and three partnerships connected with the Wyndham hotel, as defendants. It says an injunction is necessary to prevent the loss of public funds from tax exemptions.

"The city and the developer held a groundbreaking for the hotel and garage on June 18, 1998. No permits for construction have been issued. The taxes which will be lost from the total tax exemption for the hotel and parking garage amount to $85,580,000 over the 25-year term computed according to projections provided by the City of Baltimore Development Corporation," the suit states.

Pub Date: 8/14/98

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