Effort to halt construction of museum is rejected

Lawyer says annex's style ruins area's character

February 08, 2004|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,SUN STAFF

An Anne Arundel County judge has turned back a second effort to halt construction of the annex to the Banneker-Douglass Museum in Annapolis.

Thomas McCarthy Jr., who was requesting an injunction to stop work on the addition to the African-American culture and history museum across the street from his law office, said he will consider appealing Friday's ruling by Circuit Judge Michael E. Loney and asking the Court of Special Appeals for the injunction.

McCarthy has one appeal pending, after unsuccessfully contending last year that the state should have obtained building, grading and related permits from the city of Annapolis. The state contends that its projects are exempt from local regulations.

In the most recent lawsuit, he argued that the $5.5 million project should have gone through the regular application, review and approval process of the Annapolis Planning Commission, as other proposed buildings do.

The museum is housed in the historic Mount Moriah African Methodist Episcopal Church in what was once a thriving African-American community in the state capital. The church has a highly stylized facade, and McCarthy contends that the boxy brick structure the state is building will ruin the character of the community. The annex will add nearly 12,000 square feet to the roughly 9,000-square-foot museum.

Project manager Barry L. Miller said he expects the work on the addition and a renovation project begun last year to be completed by Labor Day.

The county owns the church and the land for the annex, and it is leasing both to the state -- an arrangement that McCarthy is attacking. In a letter to state officials Feb. 2, Anne Arundel County indicated a willingness to transfer the property to the state.

Agreeing with attorneys for the state, Loney ended Friday's two-hour hearing by saying that he had not seen any evidence showing why he should abruptly end construction that is nearly 20 percent complete.

No trial date will be scheduled until July, but Janet Bryant, a lawyer for the state, said she hopes the dispute will end sooner.

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