Court rules appeal can continue in dispute over Gamber land


Maryland's second-highest court has ruled that an appeal by a Carroll County homeowners' association in a case regarding a small parcel of land in Gamber will continue even though two of the three parties involved say they reached a settlement.

Maryland Court of Special Appeals Chief Judge Alan M. Wilner wrote in a March 24 decision that the court threw out motions detailing the settlement filed in February by the County Commissioners and the High Ridge Association.

A hearing date, originally scheduled for tomorrow, will be rescheduled for June.

The court's decision made the Gamber couple who have been at odds with the homeowners' association happy, said their lawyer, John T. Maguire II of Westminster. The couple's plan to build houses on part of their 135-acre farm has been delayed by the appeal.

The attorney for the homeowners' association said the case has been unusual. "The judge has said the appeal is still alive despite the parties' agreement to settle it. Go figure," said David K. Bowersox of Westminster.

County Commissioners believed they were settling the 3-year-old case when they voted in February to return a 50-foot by 15-foot section of land to the High Ridge Association.

The previous Board of Commissioners had voted in 1992 to condemn the land to extend High Ridge Drive. The move would make it easier for Aaron E. and Ruth E. Green to develop their land, a plan neighbors opposed.

Some county officials had said the county master plan called for extending the street and that it was a mistake that High Ridge Drive was built as a cul-de-sac.

Two of the three current commissioners -- W. Benjamin Brown and Richard T. Yates -- voted to reverse the condemnation. The county should condemn land only for the good of all residents, they said. Commissioner Donald I. Dell, the only incumbent, voted to condemn the land originally and said the decision should not be changed.

The Court of Special Appeals ruled that the county cannot "abandon the condemnation proceeding" because the county already owns the land "subject to the outcome of this appeal."

The county paid the High Ridge Association $1,000 for the land and the county Planning Commission approved the Greens' plan to build 11 homes at the end of High Ridge Drive.

The couple has spent about $20,000 for engineering and development work at the site, according to court papers filed by Mr. Maguire in February.

The attorney said the Greens were "delighted" by the appeals court's decision. Mr. Green tried for at least four years to buy the land, but the homeowners said they would not sell.

"This thing never did make any economic sense. It basically appalled a number of us in a constitutional sense. . . . This is a growth issue, a quality of life issue," High Ridge Association president Dave Bond said in February. Homeowners said the Greens' development would bring more traffic and lower their quality of life.

Mr. Bond was Mr. Yates' campaign treasurer in the fall election. Mr. Yates denied that his vote was influenced by Mr. Bond.

After the commissioners voted in February, the county and the High Ridge Association reached an agreement that the county would abandon its decision to condemn the land and would be reimbursed the $1,000 it paid for the land, the homeowners' association would dismiss the pending appeal, and each side would pay its own legal costs.

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