The lawsuit between Johns Hopkins University and the family of the former owners of Belward Farm could be settled by October.
The two sides met in Montgomery County Circuit Court Friday, where Judge Ronald B. Rubin scheduled a hearing to consider judgments on Oct. 26.
The family is suing in hopes of preventing Johns Hopkins from moving forward with plans to develop a 4.7 million-square-foot science park and campus on their Gaithersburg property. They claim in court documents that the land given to the university in 1989 can only be used for research or academic purposes.
Tim Newell, of Lebanon, N.J., one of the plaintiffs in the case, said the university is breaking the spirit of the deal stuck by his aunt, Elizabeth Beall Banks, former owner of the land, who deeded it to Hopkins for $5 million.
“She never, never would have signed if she knew this was the plan,” he said.
Hopkins attempted to dismiss the case in December, but was denied by circuit court Judge Katherine D. Savage. In May, Judge John W. Debelius III decided to fast-track the case, assigning it to the court’s Business and Technology Case Management Program, a process that will expedite it.
Hopkins claims in court documents that its contract with Banks doesn’t restrict construction on the site based on size.
Hopkins spokesman Robin Ferrier wrote in an email that the university and Newell are not currently discussing any kind of settlement in the case.
"Our goal and our obligation is to develop the property fully in accordance with the requirements of the deed," she wrote. "We also want to be aligned with Montgomery County in achieving its economic development goals regarding research in the life sciences."
The county Planning Board approved a preliminary plan for Hopkins’ campus in July 2011.
The Hopkins campus is set to be a major part of the county’s plans for the Great Seneca Science Corridor, set to someday include as much as 17.5 million square feet of commercial space and 9,000 residential units, bringing more than 50,000 new jobs, according to county planning documents.
If no settlement can be reached by the Oct. 26, the parties will go to trial Nov. 13, Rubin said.