Developer and Arundel head for trial

Federal judge allows civil rights case to proceed

January 09, 2002|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,SUN STAFF

A federal judge is allowing a developer's $55 million lawsuit against Anne Arundel County to head to trial.

While dismissing two of the four allegations by Jane Pumphrey Nes of Baltimore, who wants to turn her 277 acres on Marley Neck into a mixed-use development, U.S. District Judge Marvin J. Garbis ruled that Nes' claim that her civil rights were violated can proceed. Nes had dropped the fourth allegation.

In the lawsuit filed in June, Nes said that for more than a decade, the county blocked her from developing her land, changing the rules for development and asking for more financial concessions from her while favoring other developers.

The ruling issued last week, while narrowing the case, is a setback for the county, which had asked the court to dismiss the case or rule in its favor.

The decision clears the way for the next step - scouring county development records and taking depositions. Among those likely to be questioned under oath are County Executive Janet S. Owens, her predecessor John G. Gary and other current and former officials, lawyers and land-use planners.

"The county executive has not been deposed. It certainly is a possibility," said Matt Diehl, Owens' spokesman. He said yesterday that he would not comment further on the case.

"We may seek to depose other developers ... to prove that Jane was treated unfairly," said Steve Johnson, one of Nes' attorneys.

Nes' property is in a northeastern section of the county near Baltimore. Once zoned mostly for industrial uses, the end of the peninsula and the surrounding area have become increasingly residential.

Nes hopes to build Tanyard Springs, a mostly residential development of 1,300 homes, but has argued in this lawsuit and in two Anne Arundel County Circuit Court cases that the county has worked against her plans and put her in a bind.

In the first Circuit Court lawsuit, she is asking a judge to void a secrecy provision in her tentative agreement with the county for road, water and sewer service, saying it violates public policy.

In the other suit, Nes argues that the secrecy clause became a stumbling block when she asked the county's Board of Appeals to waive a development requirement. Nes says that the clause barred her from telling the board about the service agreement with the county and that the board rejected her request as premature after concluding that such an agreement did not exist. She is asking the court to overturn the Board of Appeals ruling.

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