Engineering firm files suit against planner of fun park

$115,000 debt remains from work on scuttled project, lawyers say

March 06, 2002|By Rona Kobell | Rona Kobell,SUN STAFF

A Pasadena engineering firm is suing the would-be developer of a Glen Burnie fun park for more than $115,000 in back fees.

Lawyers for John E. Harms Jr. and Associates Inc. allege that Les Jenkins has not paid for surveying services, materials and grading plans that the firm provided last year as Jenkins lobbied the county for permission to build a fun park off Ritchie Highway.

The project, alternately called the Thunder Bay USA Family Fun Park and the Les Jenkins Family Fun Park, was to have included go-cart tracks, a skate park, BMX bike tracks and water slides. It was scuttled in November, when the County Council passed an emergency bill banning the operation of go-carts in commercial recreation areas.

In the six months before the law was passed, Harms' senior project manager, Jack Pickwoad, stood by Jenkins at public appearances endorsing the park. During Jenkins' hearing seeking a special exception to build his park farther from an expressway than the county code allowed, Pickwoad held up charts outlining grading plans and roadwork.

Pickwoad declined to comment on the lawsuit or discuss his current relationship with Jenkins. Lawyers for Harms did not return telephone calls seeking comment.

Harms' lawsuit states that invoices for work on the Jenkins project were to be paid within 30 days. After that, they would be subject to an interest charge of 1.5 percent a month.

Jenkins would not address his payment arrangements, except to say the firm took on the project without an up-front payment because it believed the park would succeed. He blamed the county for killing his project and for shaking Harms' faith in him.

"What company would do the amount of work that these people have done without a retainer unless they believed in the project 100 percent?" Jenkins asked. "The county led them to believe this was a go."

Jenkins, a first-time developer who previously had worked as a barber, security guard and police officer, has published caustic editorials in local newspapers criticizing county officials. The Sparrows Point resident remains bitter about how politicians and residents derailed his project.

Although residents raised concerns immediately after Jenkins introduced his park last spring, several county officials were initially supportive. The park's future looked rosy in June, when a zoning hearing officer granted Jenkins the special exception to build his park.

But residents formed an organization and hired a lawyer to appeal the zoning exception. The county also filed an appeal, overruling its hearing officer. The six-month battle ended in November, when the council passed the law barring go-carts from commercial recreation areas.

Jenkins said the ordeal cost him several investors, and he is not sure how the Harms lawsuit will affect his quest for new money and a new site. But, he said, he has not given up his dream of building a fun park.

Jenkins recently scouted potential sites in Baltimore City and Cecil County. He said those areas are no longer options, but declined to be more specific.

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