Owners of farm file a lawsuit against Carroll school system

Action charges driveway was taken illegally

May 06, 1999|By Sheridan Lyons | Sheridan Lyons,SUN STAFF

The owners of a dairy farm near Francis Scott Key High School filed suit yesterday in Carroll Circuit Court against county school officials, saying their driveway has been illegally taken for school construction.

Melanie and Rodney Stambaugh of the 3800 block of Bark Hill Road, near Union Bridge, are seeking a court order to stop the work, and damages ranging from $500,000 to $1 million on six counts, including trespass and unlawful taking.

The high school is undergoing a $16-million renovation, but the lawsuit alleges that it was only after construction began in August 1998 that the Stambaughs discovered that some of the work would be on the 30-foot strip of land that leads from Bark Hill Road to the 72-acre property that serves as their home and livelihood.

The school board had submitted plans for county development review with its Baltimore contractor in early 1997, the suit said.

In an interview with The Sun last month, the couple said they were unaware that part of their 1,115-foot driveway was to become a turning area for school buses and a 200-car parking lot. They said then that negotiations over the site with school officials had been unsuccessful.

School officials, who could not be reached yesterday afternoon, acknowledged last month that a mistake had been made, because a construction supervisor failed to notify the couple as asked.

The Board of Education has had a right of way on the strip since April 1985, but, according to the lawsuit, it is limited to allowing access to school property and for utility work.

The suit says the agreement specifically requires notice to the landowners "of any activity which would interfere with the owners' use, and for restoration of any damage to owners' land."

Most of the Stambaugh land lies east of the school, but the strip is critical because it is the only public road access for their farm and home, the lawsuit says. It claims $500,000 in actual damages and seeks punitive damages of $500,000 where applicable.

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