County preservationists evicted in land dispute Husband of building owner says group breached trust

October 02, 1998|By Melody Simmons | Melody Simmons,SUN STAFF

A squabble over the purchase of a farm near Glyndon has led to the eviction of an influential Baltimore County land preservation group from its offices, amid accusations by a local real estate agent that the group is guilty of a breach of trust.

The Valleys Planning Council was told to vacate its work space of 30 years at 212 Washington Ave. after Henry F. LeBrun, whose wife owns the building, said the group had "lost its credibility" -- a charge based on incidents involving two deals LeBrun was brokering.

LeBrun said yesterday that the eviction was "an economic thing." But he ordered the organization to vacate after a group that includes two Valleys Planning Council board members last month agreed to buy, for preservation purposes, a 130-acre farm next to a possible new site for Bonnie View Country Club.

That farm, owned by Lippy Brothers Inc., had been identified by LeBrun as land needed for the new golf club, which has been considering a move to a rural setting for years.

In a Sept. 14 letter to Jack Dillon, director of the valleys council, LeBrun expressed shock over the Lippy farm purchase and a possible legal fight over separate development that involves another member of the council's board.

LeBrun said members of the council violated his confidence after he told the organization July 27 of Bonnie View's intention to move to 300 acres near Glyndon and onto the Lippy farm.

The farm's purchase agreement was reached weeks after that meeting, upsetting LeBrun's plans.

"In the event you would like to know why I want you to move, it concerns two astonishing and serious violations of trust," LeBrun wrote. "I can at this point only view your organization as being out of control and unable to maintain the credibility it once had."

But Donald Lippy, part-owner of the farm, said yesterday that while LeBrun and Bonnie View had expressed interest in his property, they gave "no guarantee."

"It was going to be drawn out for a couple years -- and there was no guarantee that they'd ever buy it," Lippy said. "It was not as simple as just building a golf course. There were a lot of ifs. The private group came through with a guaranteed thing, and we'll settle this fall."

Ronald Attman, president of Bonnie View, said the club had not voted on a proposal to move and was still "looking at options."

"Everything is very premature to even talk about it," Attman said. "Our members have to vote on it, and there is no vote scheduled at the present time."

Edward A. Halle Jr., one of the prospective buyers of the farm, said yesterday that LeBrun's actions were unexpected.

"We -- a group of neighbors -- bought it because we are not in

favor of having that part of the world become a golf course," Halle said. "It's one of the few remaining agricultural parcels in the county, and that's how we'd like to see it remain."

Halle said the new owners plan to place the farm in a preservation easement, permanently freezing out development and guaranteeing its future as a place to grow corn, soy, string beans and barley. The land sits in the county's highly restrictive agricultural zoning.

LeBrun yesterday continued to protest the farm sale, saying, "I think [the golf course] is an ideal use for this property -- it's open space and not going to be a bunch of houses. There's going to be 18 holes of grass with flags on them."

Added Dillon, who was packing to move to a smaller office on Courtland Avenue in Towson: "We'll adjust. Change is good, it helps you grow."

Pub Date: 10/02/98

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