Parole center developer sued

Businessman tries to stop road closing for Annapolis Towne Centre

July 21, 2006|By PHILLIP MCGOWAN | PHILLIP MCGOWAN,SUN REPORTER

A gas station owner has sued the developer of the $400 million Annapolis Towne Centre at Parole in an effort to stop the closing of a service road that loops behind his property.

Attorneys for Marc Bowen, owner of Marc Bowen Quality Service, filed a $25 million lawsuit Wednesday in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court, alleging breach of contract, trespass and nuisance.

Bowen is seeking a judgment to stop the developer from closing off the road in October.

A hearing is scheduled for Aug. 3.

Greenberg Gibbons Commercial Corp. of Owings Mills is the developer of the former Parole Plaza site.

Bowen and attorney Molly Tardivo declined to comment on the case yesterday.

In court documents, Bowen said the developer's decision to block a service road behind his property in May cut "necessary and reasonable access to the gasoline station," hurting his business, which includes repair and towing services.

FOR THE RECORD - An article in yesterday's Maryland section incorrectly reported the status and location of road access points referred to in a lawsuit against the developer of Annapolis Towne Centre at Parole. A service road that connects to Marc Bowen Quality Service runs parallel to Solomons Island Road and remains open.
The plaintiff, Bowen, alleges in court documents that the developer is seeking to close the service road in October. A separate road that looped around the service station was blocked in May because of construction related to the town center, according to court documents.
The Sun regrets the error.

The lawsuit has the potential of delaying a long-anticipated project that was stalled for more than a decade by ownership problems and financial difficulties.

Ground was broken in December after the 1960s-era mall was torn down.

Kim Potember, a spokeswoman for Greenberg Gibbons, declined to comment on the lawsuit.

Ira L. Oring, an attorney representing the town center project, said: "The claim in this lawsuit is that [Bowen] has the right to use the Annapolis Towne Centre property in the way that he wants without any legal right to do so. We believe the lawsuit has no basis."

The station sits at the southeast corner of Solomons Island Road and Forest Drive, the cornerstone of the proposed 2.1 million-square-foot, pedestrian-friendly enclave of stores, restaurants, condos and offices spread over 35 acres. Greenberg Gibbons officials have repeatedly failed to broker a deal with Bowen to relocate his business.

The service road that Bowen refers provides his customers access to his station from Forest Drive.

Grading and utility work on the 35-acre site began shortly after the county approved the development in November and has encroached around Bowen's station. The county has granted permits within the past months for a parking garage, a county spokeswoman said.

Although customers can enter and leave from station driveways on Solomons Island Road and Forest Drive, the owner alleges that the blockage of the service road, used by his customers since 1971, has created "mass pandemonium at the gasoline pumps."

Oring countered: "For a substantial period of time, we have done everything we can to accommodate him the best we could. We are surprised and disappointed that he's determined that he has to file this lawsuit."

County Executive Janet S. Owens, a Democrat, has been a strong advocate of redeveloping the site and has said she considers the groundbreaking to be a major achievement of her administration

Her former chief of staff, Bob DiPietro, is a consultant on the project while also serving as a spokesman for her state comptroller campaign.

Through a county spokeswoman, Owens said the lawsuit is "a legal issue between two private parties" and declined to comment on the case.

phill.mcgowan@baltsun.com

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