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Harford files required bond in Gravel Hill rubblefill judgment appeal

Harford County government has complied with a judge’s order and secured a bond to continue its appeal of a $45.4 million court judgment in the lawsuit brought by the owner of the Gravel Hill rubble landfill property near Havre de Grace.

In April, a Harford County Circuit Court jury awarded damages to Maryland Reclamation Associates, owner and developer of the 55-acre site off Gravel Hill Road, which had sued the county over the government’s legislative and administrative actions, dating back to the early 1990s, that prevented the site from being used as a dump for construction debris and demolition rubble.

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The jury found the county had engaged in a “regulatory taking” of the property and awarded the full amount of damages sought by Maryland Reclamation. The county has since appealed the verdict and judgement to the Maryland Court of Special Appeals.

A bond covering the full $45,420,076 judgment and one year of interest, which has accruing at 10 percent since May, was secured and delivered to Harford County Circuit Court last Friday, July 16, according to court records.

Total amount of the bond, which was purchased from Travelers Casualty and Surety Company of America, is $49,962,083.60, according to the court record.

The county paid $94,928 for the bond, according to spokesperson Cindy Mumby.

The bond was purchased two days after Circuit Court Judge Kevin Mahoney denied the county’s request to waive a bond requirement for its appeal.

Mahoney signed an order requiring the county to “post a supersedeas bond in the full amount of the judgment, $45,420,076, plus post-judgment interest.”

Earlier, retired Baltimore City Judge John Addison Howard, the trial judge in the lawsuit, had denied a county motion to set aside the judgment.

Maryland Reclamation Associates sought to develop a dump on the Gravel Hill site, which is in the midst of a historic African American community, in the late 1980s.

The company initially received preliminary state and county approvals, before a groundswell of community opposition caused a group of newly elected county officials, who took office in late 1990, to begin taking steps to thwart the project.

Years of legal battles ensued, but in 2010 the Maryland Court of Appeals ruled against Maryland Reclamation Associates, which had been denied a zoning variance by the county that could have allowed the rubblefill project to finally move forward.

Failing again to receive approval to use the property as a dump, Maryland Reclamation then filed a lawsuit against the county in 2013, contending its property was devalued and made worthless by the county, which in turn did not provide just compensation to the owners.

Efforts by the county to have the lawsuit thrown out were unsuccessful, and the case finally went to trial. On April 17, the jury ruled in Maryland Reclamation’s favor and awarded the monetary judgment.

The county has employed outside legal counsel to defend the lawsuit and has since hired another outside law firm to handle its appeal. The County Council to date has authorized spending up to $500,000 for legal expenses related to the litigation.

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