SHA seeks to condemn parcel for its use

State, shopping center fail to agree on price for land

January 25, 2004|By Hanah Cho | Hanah Cho,SUN STAFF

The State Highway Administration is trying to condemn a small piece of private land in Westminster so it can move forward with construction on Route 140.

The State Roads Commission of the State Highway Administration and the trustees of Washington Real Estate Investment Trust of Rockville, which owns the Westminster Shopping Center at Route 140 and Engler Road, could not agree on a purchase price for a parcel of land that is 0.013 of an acre, according to a condemnation petition filed Friday in Carroll County Circuit Court.

The land in question involves the back entrance of the shopping center on eastbound Route 140 near Route 27, where a road construction crew is replacing a bridge.

Construction on the $12 million bridge project began in October and is scheduled to be completed around November 2005, said David Buck, a spokesman for the State Highway Administration. The project also includes construction on Route 140 at Route 97.

The highway administration wants the land for a temporary easement to be "used only during the period of construction for the purpose of entrance closure construction," according to the petition.

Once work is completed, according to the petition, land rights would revert back to the property owners.

"That the purpose for which the said land and property above described is sought to be condemned is for construction, reconstruction, improvement, maintenance and completion" of the Route 27 bridge replacement project, according to the petition.

The State Highway Administration acquires right-of-ways as part of its construction review process. In cases where the agency and the landowner can not agree on a price, the State Highway Administration has the authority to seek condemnation, said spokeswoman Valerie Edgar.

The agency deposits money based on the fair market value of the land in an escrow account so construction can proceed. At the same time, "the property owner has the right to go to court to get a different dollar amount," Edgar said. "It keeps the public road project on schedule because otherwise, you'd be ... holding up any kind of road projects."

In the case involving the Westminster Shopping Center, the highway administration has deposited a check for $242,150 with the Carroll County Circuit Court, according to the petition.

Edmund B. Cronin Jr., chief executive officer and trustee president of Washington Real Estate Investment Trust, did not return phone calls Friday.

The Carroll County commissioners were also named as defendants in the condemnation petition. County Attorney Kim Millender said local jurisdictions are normally named in such petitions in case taxes are due on the property.

County Comptroller Eugene C. Curfman said Washington Real Estate Investment Trust does not owe the county any taxes.

The investment trust also pays property taxes to Westminster, which annexed the shopping center last year.

The county and Washington Real Estate Investment Trust have 30 days to respond to the petition.

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