Judge rejects lower rates for Heritage Complex lease ANNAPOLIS/SOUTH COUNTY -- Davidsonville * Edgewater * Shady Side * Deale


A Circuit Court judge has ruled that the county may not lease space in its Heritage Complex at rates substantially below market value.

But Judge Warren B. Duckett Jr. said Monday that Environmental Resources Management Inc. may move into space at the complex if it agrees to the renegotiated rate of $17.50 per square foot.

The company had agreed to lease 13,387 square feet of space at the Heritage Complex, signing a lease May 1 at $15 per square foot.

But two Parole-area commercial property managers, Joseph Conte and Nicolas J. Roper, requested a court order last week to block the deal, saying it would unfairly drive down the price for office space in the area. Environmental Resources had been leasing from Mr. Conte.

Mr. Conte and Mr. Roper argued that county officials were offering such a low price only to make the Heritage Complex more attractive for sale. County officials have said they want to fill up the four-building complex and sell off two of the buildings.

The Anne Arundel Taxpayers Association also was a plaintiff in the suit. The group argued that county taxpayers would lose money under the original agreement because the low lease rates would lessen property values and cut the amount of property taxes collected.

In his decision yesterday, Judge Duckett agreed that the original $15 rate would hurt surrounding property owners, saying evidence showed they would "suffer immediate, substantial and irreparable injury" if the lease was validated.

The property managers also alleged in the suit that the lease was illegal because it was not awarded through competitive bidding.

The judge's order said that remains a question for "another day."

The order prohibits the county from entering any future lease agreements at Heritage until the legality of its lease agreement with Environmental Resources is resolved. It gives both sides 30 days to set up a hearing to argue the legality of the lease.

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