Jury to set price for schools' land purchase


A six-member jury is expected to determine this week the amount of money that the Howard County school system must pay a developer to use his land for an Ellicott City elementary school.

Monday's opening of the trial, including a tour of the site by the jury, was the latest step in a drawn-out dispute between the school system and J. Chris Pippen, who owns 1.3 acres on Montgomery Road across from Long Gate shopping center.

The school system wanted to purchase the land from Pippen to provide an access road to the school, which is scheduled to open in August 2007.

Pippen, who did not return telephone messages, planned to use the land to build a senior housing complex next to property owned by the YMCA. After the school system offered Pippen "fair-market value" for the land, Pippen refused the offer, according to Superintendent Sydney L. Cousin, who attended the first day of proceedings in Howard County Circuit Court.

The school board unanimously approved a resolution in September that gave Cousin authority to pursue condemnation proceedings. The school system was granted preliminary approval in January by the Department of Planning and Zoning that allowed work to begin at the site.

In May, the system received a partial summary judgment that awarded it the land.

Cousin stressed that this week's trial will be to determine the cost of the land.

"This is only about the fair-market value of the property," Cousin said. "The public use purpose has already been established."


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