Community halts Pikesville cemetery from selling land to developers

A decision by the Maryland Court of Appeals ended a long dispute in Pikesville between Druid Ridge Cemetery and community groups by ruling in favor of the groups, upholding a decades-old restrictive covenant prohibiting development of the land for non-cemetery use still applied.

"The community is elated. This stops the development of these acres, destruction of a forest buffer and does not exacerbate water problems in the area," says Alan Zukerberg, president of Long Meadow Neighborhood Association and an advocate for the communities.

The plaintiffs in the case are the Dumbarton Improvement Association, Inc., Long Meadow Neighborhood Association, a number of individuals who live in both association neighborhoods and seven owners of burial plots at the cemetery.

They opposed a proposal to sell a 36-acre parcel of the 200-acre cemetery by the defendant, Druid Ridge Cemetery Co., to Druid Ridge LLC for development into 56 semi-attached residences.

According to Zukerberg, Druid Ridge LLC is a consortium of developers that includes David S. Brown Enterprises. A call to David S. Brown Enterprises was not returned.

The cemetery is located at 7900 Park Heights Avenue, at the Old Court Road intersection between Reisterstown Road and Park Heights Avenue. It dates to 1896. In 1992, the owners of the cemetery sold it to Stewart Enterprises, a New Orleans-headquartered company.

In 1999, the cemetery agreed to sell 36 acres to the consortium for $7.4 million. Neighboring community groups immediately opposed residential development, taking their case before Baltimore County's zoning hearings.

They also initiated a suit in the Circuit Court of Baltimore County based on a 1913 deed involving the cemetery and restrictive covenants. In 2008, the Circuit Court ruled that the covenant language was ambiguous and, in any case, the area had changed so radically that the covenant was unenforceable. In 2010, the Court of Special Appeals agreed with the Circuit Court's decision.

In its current ruling, the Court of Appeals ruled that the restrictive covenant in the 1913 deed "clearly and unambiguously requires that all 200 cares sold to the Druid Ridge Cemetery Company be maintained and operated as a cemetery."

The court reversed the Court of Special Appeals judgment and directed that the case be sent back to the Baltimore County Circuit Court for entry of a judgment in favor of the plaintiffs.

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