Plaintiffs in JHU land dispute also file for summary judgment

Family of farm owner who sold land to university in 1989 say agreement isn't being honored

September 25, 2012|By Kevin Rector, The Baltimore Sun

The plaintiffs in a high-profile land dispute with Johns Hopkins University filed for summary judgment in their case against the university on Tuesday, one day after JHU filed a similar motion.

The lawsuit was originally filed in November by family members of Elizabeth Beall Newell, who along with her siblings sold 108 acres of their family's Belward Farm near Gaithersburg to JHU in 1989 for $5 million. The sale, of land the family said was valued at $54 million, came with certain stipulations, including that the land be used for research or education purposes.

The lawsuit claims the university's current plans to build a 4.7 million-square-foot research and development campus on the Montgomery County property, complete with high-rise buildings, violates the agreement.

On Monday, JHU filed for summary judgment in the case, arguing the original contract contains specific language about the sorts of work that can be done on the land but does not spell out building heights, JHU's status as tenant or other specific development standards.

On Tuesday, attorneys for John Timothy Newell, the lead plaintiff and Elizabeth Newell's nephew, filed their own motion, arguing evidence presented in the case clearly indicates the university has broken the agreement — especially in its intention to lease the research space to third parties.

"Aunt Liz did not support the building of a high-density, commercial Science City on her property that requires no Hopkins presence other than as a landlord," Newell said in a statement. "Her donation was for something on a much smaller scale with JHU as the 'keystone' noncommercial presence."

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