Still More on the Land Deal

What picqued my interest was the headline in the Baltimore Sun story that reads Developer and four others sue Queen Anne’s, claiming bias. At a minimum a man-bites-dog story.

The story is rich in irony. The Democrat owned Queen Anne County board of commissioners is being sued by a developer for trying to keep out the people from the second of John Edwards’s “two Americas.”

Yesterday, [developer John C.] Stamato and four other plaintiffs filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Baltimore against the five Queen Anne’s County commissioners, contending their delays to halt the project, specifically the affordable housing, amounts to a “pattern of discrimination against minorities” that violates federal housing rules.

Stamato has been joined in the lawsuit by two builders, including Maryland-based Enterprise Homes Inc., an arm of the Rouse-founded organization that supports affordable-housing interests across the United States. Two African-American residents who say they cannot afford to buy a home in Queen Anne’s County have also signed on as plaintiffs: a United Methodist minister in Grasonville and a Denton resident who works in Annapolis.

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Good stuff. Nothing like watching a freshly hoisted petard. There is also a delightfully nebulous statement by Carl O. Snowden of the Attorney General’s Civil Rights office

“They aren’t opposed to all development. They are opposed to a certain type of development.”

Buried is a bit of information that makes the smoke blown by the O’Malley administration seem more and more like a cover up of corruption. There is more below the fold. Really.

One of the defense put forward by John R. Griffin, erstwhile secretary of the department of natural resources, is that while he was being paid by the land’s owner to prepare a feasibility study on its purchase by the state he did not know that the land had failed a perc test making it impossible to develop with out connection to county water and sewage systems.

Queen Anne’s County designated the parcel as a growth area in 1998 and, until two years ago, it was slated for immediate water and sewer access. But the commissioners voted in 2005 to hold off service for 20 years. They shortened that delay in 2006 to between four and 10 years. They refused to further expedite consideration May 8 – though a $32 million sewage plant opened in Grasonville a week later, according to the complaint.

Just southeast of the parcel is a 270-acre tract that the state and county hope to use as recreational space; the land deal turned contentious because the $5 million purchase price is nearly $1 million more than the average of two appraisals.

Claiming you were ignorant of a perc test is viable if you were working on the assumption that the parcel could get the water and sewage hookups. But if you know that the county has blocked the extension of water and sewage lines into an neighboring parcel for as much as 20 years then the reason for the perc test becomes obvious and the denial of the existence of the perc test becomes much more untenable.

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