Property owners file lawsuit against Har Sinai; Cleanup at building site polluted water, they say


Four Owings Mills property owners filed suit yesterday against the Har Sinai congregation, alleging that in trying to clean up a contaminated piece of property near Worthington Valley, Har Sinai has polluted a stream that supplies drinking water to the residents.

The plaintiffs, who live downstream from the 17-acre site, where Har Sinai wants to build a synagogue, school and day care center, are seeking $4 million in damages and are asking a judge to order Hari Sinai to remove all contaminants from the site.

The residents also asked a Baltimore County Circuit Court judge to issue an injunction stopping work on the site. But at a quickly called hearing yesterday, that motion was denied.

A hearing on the synagogue's development plan resumes today before a county hearing officer, with opponents pressing their argument that the site is too small to contain the 65,000-square-foot facility.

J. Carroll Holzer, a lawyer representing Har Sinai, said work at the site has stopped while the congregation awaits a decision from county officials.

The lawsuit is the latest effort by members of the community to stop development of property at Greenspring and Walnut avenues that was used as a dump.

Har Sinai, based on Park Heights Avenue in Baltimore, purchased the property last year hoping to build a religious center that would be closer to its members in the growing northwest area. For months, residents have complained that the development would clog the roads with traffic and threaten their wells by drawing on the area's ground water.

Har Sinai's environmental studies have found 26 contaminants on the site, including arsenic and PCBs.

In the suit filed yesterday, residents Marilyn Green Larach, Joseph R. Lizza, Marc Hess and Brian Lerner contend that Har Sinai's work to remove debris from the site has harmed their water.

Pub Date: 2/17/99

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