City Wins Round In Fight Over West Side

August 18, 2009|By Jamie Smith Hopkins | Jamie Smith Hopkins,jamie.smith.hopkins@baltsun.com

Baltimore City has won a legal fight over plans to redevelop a large piece of the west side, but the opposing sides are already readying for the next round.

A Circuit Court judge on Friday dismissed claims in a lawsuit - filed by Orioles owner Peter G. Angelos - that challenged the legality of a deal the city struck to redevelop the blighted "superblock" around the 200 block of W. Lexington Street. The suit, filed 2 1/2 years ago, was in Circuit Court because Maryland's Court of Appeals reversed an earlier ruling in favor of the city and sent the case back for a second look.

The attorney for the plaintiff, a company controlled by Angelos, promised Monday to appeal again.

"This is not the last chapter in this case," said M. Albert Figinski, whose client is a west-side property owner.

That didn't surprise the city or west-side onlookers.

"It's important to have the court address the issues that have been raised," said Ronald M. Kreitner, executive director of the nonprofit WestSide Renaissance Inc., whose west-side-stakeholder members include the Law Offices of Peter G. Angelos.

Mayor Sheila Dixon said in a statement that she hopes the appeal will be handled "expeditiously." The superblock, said City Solicitor George Nilson, is a critical part of west-side redevelopment efforts.

The Baltimore Development Corp., the city's economic development arm, selected developer Lexington Square Partners in 2005 to redevelop the area, bounded by Park Avenue and Howard, Lexington and Fayette streets. The developer plans to build apartments, shops and a hotel.

Angelos' lawsuit asks to have the deal spiked. The plaintiff argues that the agreement included an important parcel that wasn't in the original bid package and also that the developer plans to tear down many of the historic buildings in the project area.

Baltimore Circuit Judge Martin P. Welch granted the city's motion to dismiss the lawsuit. In his decision, he wrote that he found "no genuine dispute of any material fact." The plaintiff's complaint that the city was not complying with rules related to historic preservation, Welch added, was "premature and not yet ripe for adjudication."

For the plaintiff, the issue isn't only the project but also how the Baltimore Development Corp. does business.

"It's time the BDC's outrages are put to an end," said Figinski, the plaintiff's attorney.

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