Margaret A. Reigle, who founded property-rights group Fairness to Land Owners Committee, dies

Margaret A. Reigle, a certified public accountant who was founder and chairwoman of the property-rights group Fairness to Land Owners Committee, died March 2 from dementia at Symphony Manor, a Roland Park assisted-living facility.

The former Towson resident was 73.

Margaret Ann Reigle was the daughter of Ellsworth Bosley Reigle, state budget director, and Mary Willis Reigle, a licensed practical nurse. She was born in Baltimore and raised on Dixie Drive and Piccadilly Road in West Towson.

She was a 1962 graduate of Towson High School, and in 1966 graduated cum laude from the University of Maryland, College Park with a bachelor’s degree in accounting.

A certified public accountant, Ms. Reigle began her career in 1966 in the Baltimore office of Arthur Young & Co., and was later transferred to the firm’s New York office, where she rose to become audit manager.

In 1976, she was named vice president of management information in the card division of American Express Corp., and from 1979 to 1980 was corporate controller for Columbia Pictures Industries Inc. She was responsible for external and internal financial reporting, including reports to shareholders, the Securities and Exchange Commission and the company’s board of directors.

Ms. Reigle left Columbia Pictures in 1980 when she was appointed vice president and chief financial officer for the New York Daily News.

Her responsibilities included coordinating all financial reporting, projections and cash flow analysis. She was also responsible for financial strategic planning, including the launch of a new afternoon edition, expansion of the newspaper’s circulation into the outer boroughs, and cost-benefit studies related to newsstand distribution and returns. Additional duties included managing an accounting staff of 400.

She was a member of the union negotiation team that oversaw the financial impact of contracts with 13 labor unions that worked for the Daily News.

Ms. Reigle retired in 1982 and moved to Cambridge, where she invested in and developed properties on the Eastern Shore. She restored a 200-year-old manor house and property that overlooked the Choptank River, and subdivided and marketed a 138-acre farm on the Chesapeake Bay.

She also invested in and developed retail businesses and residential properties on Long Island, N.Y., and provided investment and financial advice to small businesses and clients.

In 1990, Ms. Reigle founded the Fairness to Land Owners Committee — or FLOC — to fight wetlands regulations. The mission of the organization, according to a 1992 Los Angeles Times article, was to “fight wetlands designation of private property,” but the story noted that the group “quickly got caught up in other property rights issues.”

Some 275,000 acres of state nontidal wetlands existed when the administration of Gov. William Donald Schaefer introduced the Maryland Nontidal Wetlands Bill in 1989. After “federal agencies adopted a new manual for identifying and delineating wetlands, Maryland’s nontidal wetlands grew to over 1,300,000 acres — an increase of more than one million acres of predominately dry land,” Ms. Reigle wrote in a 1991 letter to the editor of The Baltimore Sun.

She said she established FLOC to help “ ‘mom and pop’ landowners protect their private property rights from the government’s excessive land-use controls.” She worked to help people whose retirement properties, she felt, had been declared “un-buildable and thus worthless” by the federal government.

“Landowners have been abused over the years, but nothing was as draconian and abusive as the 1989 wetlands manual,” Ms. Reigle told The Washington Post in a 1992 interview. “It typifies the property issue and brought people out of the woodwork.”

Ms. Reigle led a battle against wetlands regulations for developers and advocates of private property rights who complained of long delays in getting permits and costly restrictions on the use of their land, against those who favored the regulations, citing the long-term effect on the health of the Chesapeake Bay.

“She was generally in the wise use movement, I guess championing landowners’ rights,” Tom Horton, who was The Sun’s environmental reporter from the early 1970s until 2006, wrote in an email.

“I recall a panel I was on at a conference in Salisbury with her, both of us saying pretty much the opposite about what was happening to the health of the Chesapeake Bay,” he wrote. He said Freeman A. Hrabowski lll, president of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, was in the audience and questioned how both of them could be correct.

Mr. Horton contended that Ms. Reigle was “using her data selectively.”

“I’ll say this for her, she brought vigor to her cause,” he said.

Timothy B. Wheeler, who covered the environment for The Evening Sun and The Sun and now writes for the Bay Journal, said Ms. Reigle “rode the property rights movement while raising a ruckus, primarily in Maryland. It came at a time when the Bush administration was pulling back from some regulations and the federal protection of wetlands and what they are. She represented the backlash against regulations of wetlands.”

He described Ms. Reigle as “articulate, outspoken and a good foil for folks who were upset by that stuff, and she was quite eager for me to understand what they were doing and was very earnest in her concern.”

The New York Times in 1992 called her “among the leaders of the [private property rights] movement.”

The former Cambridge resident moved to Symphony Manor in 2013. She enjoyed gardening, sewing and travel.

Her husband of 20 years, Casimier Charles Jowaiszas, a Madison Square Garden executive, died in 20001.

Services are private.

She is survived by a brother, J. Robert Reigle of Towson; a sister, Patricia Reigle Benoist of San Antonio, Texas; a nephew and a niece.

fred.rasmussen@baltsun.com

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