Mays Chapel residents sue county, school board

Group opposes plans for 700-seat school at park

March 27, 2013|By Alison Knezevich, The Baltimore Sun

A group of residents has sued Baltimore County and the local school board over plans to build a 700-seat elementary school at the Mays Chapel Park, saying officials skirted county real estate laws.

The lawsuit, filed this month in Baltimore County Circuit Court, asks a judge to declare that a County Council resolution authorizing the county and school board to exchange land for the school site was illegal.

The county owned 10 acres of the site, while the school system owned the other 10 acres. In January, the council approved an exchange of those parcels so the school could be built on the county's portion, passing Resolution 5-13 at the request of County Executive Kevin Kamenetz.

The lawsuit claims that under county law, officials should have sought two independent appraisals of each parcel, but did not do so. It also says residents believe the county will use both parcels for the school site.

"We think they circumvented the law and we think that's a violation of the public trust," said Alan Zukerberg, an attorney representing the residents.

The school system says it needs the new elementary school to ease overcrowding. Some residents near the park, located north of Padonia Road near Timonium, have fiercely fought the plans. Many who live in condominiums around the park are retirees who use the land for recreation and exercise, and at meetings some have expressed concern that a school would draw too much traffic and damage their property values.

School system officials said Wednesday that they could not comment on pending litigation.

A county government spokeswoman said of the lawsuit, "these repeated delay tactics serve no one well."

"The schoolchildren up and down the York Road corridor need a new school," county spokeswoman Ellen Kobler said. "State-of-the-art schools don't detract from neighborhoods. They enhance neighborhoods. ... The Mays Chapel elementary school will be built."

The complaint claims a county employee conducted one appraisal for each parcel, meaning it was not independent.

"The County failed and refused to comply with its own law requiring two independent real estate appraisals for each parcel in the exchange, and therefore the Plaintiffs ... as well as all citizens of Baltimore County, cannot rely on the validity and veracity of the appraisals to determine if the contemplated exchange is a fair one," the lawsuit says.

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