Maryland appellate court to hear Belward Farm case in September -- Gazette.Net


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A battle over a 138-acre farm in Gaithersburg is scheduled to come before the Maryland Court of Special Appeals in Annapolis next month.

According to a statement released by the descendants of Elizabeth Beall Banks, the woman who sold the land to Johns Hopkins University at a fraction of its market value decades ago, the Court of Special Appeals will hear their appeal on Sept. 3.

In November 2011, Tim Newell, one of Banks’ relatives, sued Johns Hopkins University. He claimed the university was violating a land-use agreement it made with Banks when she sold the land to the institution in 1989, believing it would be used for a low-density academic campus, according to the statement.

Instead, the Baltimore university plans to build a high-density commercial research office park on the land located off Muddy Branch Road and Md. 28. Newell and others family members said this violates the land-use agreement between Banks and the university.

In October, a Montgomery County Circuit Court judge ruled in Johns Hopkins’ favor; the family appealed that decision in November.

In his statement, Newell called the circuit court judge’s decision “erroneous,” and said the Court of Special Appeals would overturn the ruling.

Dennis O’Shea, a spokesman for Johns Hopkins University, said, “This is the same issues, the same facts, the same applicable law. We believe the judge at the Circuit Court level made the right call, and we hope the Court of Special Appeals will see it the same way.”

According to O’Shea, the contract between the school and Banks says that the university may develop the land “for agricultural, academic, research and development, delivery of health and medical care and services, or related purposes only.”

“The contract and deed do not restrict the height or density of development on the property, and do not limit the university’s right to lease to non-university tenants,” O’Shea told The Gazette in an email.

sjbsmith@gazette.net