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New Superblock lawsuit awaits judge's decision

Justice SystemMaryland Historical TrustPeter AngelosElections

A Circuit Court judge is expected to rule soon on whether to dismiss a lawsuit about the city's much-contested Superblock project — the second challenge from Orioles owner Peter G. Angelos — or to let the case proceed.

City officials want to redevelop a blighted part of Baltimore's west side by selling property to developer Lexington Square Partners, which this week received a second six-month extension on the land disposition agreement. A property-ownership company controlled by Angelos sued in April, alleging that the city and state circumvented rules in order to push the mixed-use development forward despite insufficient preservation of historic buildings.

An earlier Angelos suit went to the state's highest court twice before it was resolved in the city's favor last year.

At the heart of the new challenge is whether the head of the Maryland Historical Trust had the authority to act for the trust when he approved preliminary plans for the redevelopment in December. The trust's board protested, voting in February to urge the director, J. Rodney Little, to rescind a letter saying the trust would not hold up the project.

M. Albert Figinski, an attorney representing Angelos' group, said Thursday that the city pressured Little to act on his own in favor of a plan to "destroy rather than preserve." Only the board had the right to act on the plan, and the court should allow board members to do so, the suit contends.

Circuit Court Judge John Philip Miller listened to arguments from both sides at a hearing Wednesday, first reported by the Baltimore Brew news website, and said he would rule as quickly as possible on the motion to dismiss.

The city contends that Angelos' company does not have standing to sue over the matter and says the Maryland Historical Trust's director was acting within his rights.

"There's not a shred of evidence or information proffered that Mr. Little was acting beyond his authority," said George Nilson, the city solicitor.

Nilson, foreseeing an appeal if the case is dismissed, said he hoped the matter could be fully resolved by late fall.

"Our objective … is to try to have this property sold to this developer by December, and if it isn't, the developer could walk away, easily," Nilson said. "From our perspective, it's just really time to move on."

Figinski said the effort to cast his client as a delaying force was unfair, saying the project had been delayed for years before the first suit was filed in 2007.

jhopkins@baltsun.com

twitter.com/realestatewonk

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