Carroll County schools settle land suit; Owners to get $250,000, legal fees for property taken in renovation


Ending one of its nagging legal battles, the Carroll County Board of Education has agreed to pay Melanie and Rodney A. Stambaugh $250,000 for a strip of property the school system took without permission and for use of a wetland in which officials hope to discharge treated sewage.

When the school system started the $16 million renovation of Francis Scott Key High School in 1998, the Stambaughs woke up to find their driveway disappearing. Without warning, contractors for the school system knocked down their pine trees and crowded the 1,115-foot gravel path with trucks and equipment while constructing a turning area for school buses and a 200-car parking lot.

Yesterday's settlement resolves not only the issue of the driveway leading to the couple's 74-acre dairy farm but also brings the county one step closer to opening a wastewater treatment plant that has sat idle since the school system built the facility at Francis Scott Key without required state environmental and construction permits.

"I don't believe they can ever be happy in the sense of what they've been through, but I know they're certainly relieved," said David K. Bowersox, who represented the Stambaughs in their $1.5 million lawsuit against the Board of Education. "They have been incredibly frustrated with the circumstances, understandably so and legitimately so."

The Stambaughs did not return several phone messages.

In the nine-page settlement agreement -- in which the school system makes no admission of guilt -- school officials agree to pay the Stambaughs $250,000 for use of the wetlands, the 30-foot-wide right of way of their driveway and "damages allegedly suffered" as a result of construction at Francis Scott Key.

The strip of right-of-way property between the school's ball fields and classroom building off Bark Hill Road was appraised in October 1998 at $1,000. School and county officials would not reveal the value of the 5-acre wetlands the county hopes to use with the wastewater treatment plant.

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