Tentative settlement reached in Owings Mills dispute

December 02, 2004|By Laura Barnhardt | Laura Barnhardt,SUN STAFF

A tentative settlement has been reached in a legal dispute that has stalled a $220 million town center planned near the Owings Mills Metro Station, state officials said yesterday.

The agreement, between the state Department of Transportation and former owners of land where the town center is to be built, appears to remove a hurdle that has put the project on hold for more than a year. It is, however, contingent upon the state and a development team completing details of the project, said Jack Cahalan, spokesman for the Department of Transportation.

Negotiations on a "master development agreement" that would govern the scope of the town center project are under way, Cahalan said. The state's Board of Public Works must still approve both agreements, he said.

Transportation officials and the state attorney general's office declined to comment on the specifics of the tentative agreement. A lawyer for the former property owners, Painters Mill Venture, declined to comment.

The project -- which is to include housing, offices and a library -- has been delayed while the state and Painters Mill Venture argued about the partnership's claim to 46 acres not used when the state condemned 137 acres of their land to build the Metro station and expand Interstate 795, the Northwest Expressway.

The town center plans also call for a 100-room hotel, stores and restaurants. At its center, the development is to include a square for events, a community college branch and the library. The commuter parking lots are to be replaced with multistory garages.

David S. Brown Enterprises and Whiting-Turner Contracting Co. replaced a developer that withdrew from the project in 2002 and had planned to start the first of three construction phases last year when Painters Mill filed its lawsuit.

The state has signed a 99-year lease with developers.

Baltimore County has committed $13 million to pay for public parking and infrastructure at the town center, and another $16.7 million, with some state matching funds, for the library and community college, said Fronda Cohen, director of the county's economic development.

"We're very enthusiastic about the project and that a settlement has been reached," Cohen said.

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