State delegate seeks probe into land transaction in Harford

county relinquished its claim to site

Acres given to developer with ties to Harkins

September 04, 2002|By Lane Harvey Brown | Lane Harvey Brown,SUN STAFF

A Democratic state legislator from Harford County has asked Maryland's top prosecutor to investigate a land transaction completed this year involving a developer with political ties to Republican County Executive James M. Harkins.

B. Daniel Riley, a first-term delegate from Edgewood, said yesterday that he had reached "the boiling point" over the county's decision in January to relinquish any claim to 3.12 acres on the Perryman peninsula. The county said it received the property in error as part of a 103-acre conservation package put together in the 1990s by the Harford Land Trust.

"It seems like we cater to the rich and powerful" in Harford County, Riley said.

The property is adjacent to Gabler's crab house, which closed last year.

Harkins said yesterday that the timing of Riley's request is "very suspicious - here we are just a week before the election. ... It's blatant politics."

Harkins will face Ron Roz, a local activist, in Tuesday's Republican primary.

Riley said politics was not behind the letter, sent to state prosecutor Stephen Montanarelli last week.

"I don't care if people think it's political," Riley said. "I held that letter for a good, long time. I said the heck with this. We're going to take our bumps."

Montanarelli said yesterday he had received the letter but had not decided whether to investigate.

The county maintains it is clearing up mistakes made by the administration of former Executive Eileen Rehrmann, which bought the acreage from the Land Trust in the mid-1990s to preserve an inland lake, tidal inlet, wetlands and woodlands called the Forest Greens Lake Preserve.

The survey of the 3.12 acres was dated and did not show a marina that had operated on the site since the late 1930s. The existence of that business precludes any public right to that property, the county says.

The error was discovered late last year when Gablers Shore LLC was in the process of buying the old Bush River Boat Works, said Robert McCord, a lawyer in the county legal department. Gablers Shore LLC is headed by developer Robert Geis of Lutherville, who has contributed $2,100 to the Committee to Elect James M. Harkins.

Critics, including Riley, say the "quit-claim" deed, in effect, allowed Gablers Shore LLC to take title to the 3.12 acres without public hearings - or payment.

"That's what infuriates me most," Riley said.

"That land belonged to everyone and now they sweetened the deal for the folks who bought Gabler's," he said.

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