Case pits community, Sojourner Douglass


The Edgewater campus of Sojourner-Douglass College will remain standing, but the legal wrangling continues.

The case, between a homeowner's association and the facility's developer, centers on whether the building of the campus, at Routes 2 and 214, violated a 1988 covenant that required the 6-acre parcel to remain "undeveloped, except for educational facilities in conjunction with the Anne Arundel County Board of Education."

A three-judge panel of the Court of Special Appeals recently rejected a motion to order the 16,000-square-foot, one-story building razed, though the panel reversed a lower court decision in favor of the developer.

The Circuit Court had ruled that the college's relationship with the school board -- including allowing the KIPP Harbor Academy charter school to operate in a portion of the facility during the day -- was sufficient to fulfill the terms of the covenant. The Court of Special Appeals panel reversed that decision in July, saying that the school's construction was in violation of the covenant.

"The [school] board played no role in the development of the proposed college facility at South River," the ruling reads in part.

However, in allowing the historically black college's building to remain standing, the panel sent the case back to the lower court for "discussion of a remedy" for the homeowners association, according to James C. Praley, the attorney representing the developer.

An attorney for the homeowners group could not be reached for comment.

Sojourner-Douglass officials said yesterday they've been continuing with the day-to-day business of the school as the court case plays out. "I'm greatly relieved and certainly pleased," Charlestine R. Fairley, the school's director, said of the decision not raze the $2.5 million building. "We'll just wait to see what else is to come."

Last week, the attorney for the school's landlord asked the Court of Appeals to hear the case, saying that Court of Special Appeals erred in overturning the lower court's decision.

Attorneys for the homeowners' group have 15 days from the date the appeal was filed, Oct. 6, to respond.

Also, school officials are still hoping to purchase the campus from the developer.

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