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And this Case Winner is...Rockburn Land Trust

May 12, 2010

Rockburn Land Trust won its five year legal challenge to save Colonial-era Belmont in Baltimore, Maryland. Read how they saved the site and encouraged the potential developer to fund environmental projects to preserve the historic character of the area.

Development of the historic site by Howard Community College threatened the adjacent conserved land with the extension of roads, utilities, over 100 condominiums and a conference center. After significant community pressure and financial losses, the College decided to put the historic property on the market instead of pressing for the permits it needed for expanded development.  The College is committed to agreements with the Maryland Historic Trust and Preservation Maryland to preserve the historic character of Belmont.  This historic area is surrounded by undeveloped Patapsco State Park land and in an area designated as a green hub by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.

The Land Trust lessons learned included: initially underestimating the political and entrepreneurial forces associated with land development; better recognizing that those with educational expertise did not have comparable development expertise; understanding the pros and cons of expensive legal actions and the composition of a broad based legal team; the advantages and disadvantages of mediation, and the benefits of diverse preservation strategies and tactics.

The November 2009 College-neighbor agreement continues the area residents’ longstanding commitment to historical preservation and perpetual land conservation in collaboration with the Maryland Environmental Trust.  These commitments were framed in 2003, addressing the use of Belmont and increased vehicle access over Belmont Woods Road, the 14’ private right of way.  The College’s predecessor accepted the Covenant and the College recognized the existence of the Covenant when it purchased Belmont.  

The November 2009 agreement incorporates much of the 2003 Covenant and provides for the College to continue educational programs, grants further increase in vehicle access to Belmont and funds various Belmont Woods Road environment projects.  All the parties agreed to dismiss the litigation and to not institute new litigation for four years.   This agreement may be terminated if the College is not actively marketing Belmont for sale.  The College says that 9 serious future purchasers have looked at Belmont.

This environmental defense by the Rockburn Land Trust and the associated supporting lawsuit by a Land Trust member cost over $300,000 and consumed thousands of hours of volunteer time and hundreds of hours of county government hearings.  The Howard Community College’s legal fees exceeded $400,000 and the College was found to be inappropriately funding Belmont’s development by moving budget dollars from one year to the next without County government permission.

For further information, contact Dale N. Schumacher at BWRCO@aol.com.  Detail regarding perpetual conservation historic preservation of the northeast Howard County can be found at:  www.savebelmont.org  or at http://www.landtrustalliance.org/about-us/programs/conservation-defense/rockburn.

For news articles see:

  • “HCC President vows to return 1.7 million in surplus budget funds College had used money to purchase historic Belmont”, May 19, 2009 Carson, Larry.  Baltimore Sun.
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