County calls developer's lawsuit moot

Tanyard Springs pact expired, lawyers say as they defend secrecy

November 29, 2001|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,SUN STAFF

Lawyers for Anne Arundel County asked a judge yesterday to dismiss a lawsuit filed by the developer of a proposed 1,300-house development in Solley, arguing that it is moot because it is based on an expired agreement with the county.

The developer, who has been battling with the county for approval to build since 1990, wants the court to throw out a secrecy provision that bars her from revealing that she and the county had a tentative agreement on several development issues.

The county's lawyers contended the lawsuit is academic because the 1998 agreement covering adequate public facilities for the proposed Tanyard Springs mixed-use development expired Nov. 13. However, the lawyers maintained that the nondisclosure provision that hides the agreement from boards and courts was valid.

"This type of agreement does not violate public policy," lawyer Kurt J. Fischer, arguing for the county, told Circuit Judge Joseph P. Manck.

He said the developer was trying to get the court to rewrite the agreement with the county so that it would be more favorable to her.

But lawyers for developer Jane Pumphrey Nes of Baltimore countered that lawsuits over the property kept the agreement alive. Ronald A. Schimel argued that its provision requiring secrecy is "repugnant, illegal and offensive" and gave the county "all the negotiating cards."

Nes has been trying to build a mixed-use development on her 277-acre property on Marley Neck, beginning with efforts dating to 1974 to change zoning. Her proposal includes commercial and industrial space as well residences.

In 1998, she signed an agreement with the county to assure adequate roads, sewers and water to develop the property, and was required to keep it quiet. But the agreement did not cover schools - a major hurdle - and the secrecy clause became a complication when Nes sought a waiver on the issue of adequate school capacity.

For that she needed a green light from the county Board of Appeals. But the board, concluding that no agreement existed between the county and Nes, turned her away.

Nes appealed to the Circuit Court in June, asking it to overturn the Board of Appeals decision. But the secrecy issue remained: She was unable to disclose the existence of her agreement with the county to a judge either.

The agreement, if it still stands, includes a provision for the county to build a sewage pumping station on her property. But Nes' lawyers said after the agreement was signed, county officials told her they wanted the pumping station on neighboring property and advised her to negotiate with that owner.

A resolution in this case would hardly end the legal brouhaha involving the Marley Neck property. There is still the Circuit Court appeal from the county Board of Appeals.

A related civil rights case is pending in U.S. District Court in Baltimore.

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