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Group, developer reach settlement that preserves historic Shore farm


A distinguished national historic preservation organization agreed yesterday to pay $225,000 to a Washington developer to settle two lawsuits over development of a historic Eastern Shore farm protected by a conservation easement.

The settlement by the National Trust for Historic Preservation prohibits development at the 18th-century plantation, known as Myrtle Grove, except for putting in a small wildlife pond near the two-story Colonial mansion.

"We're very pleased," said Paul Edmondson, the trust's attorney. "It resolves all of the issues here in a way that protects the property and also reinforces the important legal principle that easements given in perpetuity have to be abided by."

Washington developer Herbert Miller and his wife, Patrice, purchased Myrtle Grove, a 160-acre scenic farm at the confluence of the Miles River and Goldsborough Creek, for $3 million in 1989.

The farm was preserved by its former owner, Margaret Donoho, in 1975 under an easement donated to the National Trust. In 1994, the Millers approached the trust seeking to amend the easement and develop residential lots -- a request the trust agreed to in return for $45,000, but rescinded because of protests from Eastern Shore preservationists.

The reversal prompted the Millers to file suit in D.C. Superior Court against the trust for breach of contract. In a separate suit in July, Maryland Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr. sued the Millers in Talbot County seeking to enforce the easement because a state tax deduction had been granted in exchange for Curran praised the settlement as "a victory for land preservation." Jason Smolen, a trustee of the Patrice Miller Trust, which owns Myrtle Grove, said: "We are happy with the settlement. It's always been our objective to preserve the property in its historic state. The subdivision would not have impacted visually on the core part of the property."

Pub Date: 12/11/98

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