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Habitat lawsuit is dismissed

September 09, 2004|by BRIAN SHAPPELL and ANDREW SCHOTZ

shappell@herald-mail.com
andrews@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN - Like an Olympic runner, Habitat For Humanity of Washington County continues to clear hurdles on its way to what it hopes will be a victory.

On Friday, the group passed another obstacle as a lawsuit attempting to block the building of a two-house structure in Boonsboro was dismissed.

Washington County Circuit Judge W. Kennedy Boone III granted Habitat's motion to dismiss a lawsuit filed against the group by Boonsboro resident Karen E. Shifler.

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Boone said Tuesday that he believed Habitat was entitled to a dismissal because Shifler, of Lakin Avenue, failed to respond to Habitat's motion to dismiss her suit.

Shifler will have 30 days from the time of Boone's decision, made Friday, to file the suit again, he said. Boone said it would be more difficult for her to fight Habitat's plans after that 30-day period because she would have to show irregularities at the property or fraud to reopen the case.

"I didn't think it was appropriate to dismiss it outright without a response," Boone said.

Shifler was represented by Hagerstown attorney Kirk C. Downey when she filed for a restraining order and permanent injunction against the building of the Boonsboro Habitat houses in June according to court records.

Downey ceased representing her on July 19, records state.

Downey and Shifler could not be reached for comment by telephone Wednesday.

On June 11, Shifler obtained a temporary injunction from a Washington County Circuit judge and filed for a permanent one. The temporary injunction was lifted three days later.

Shifler has said she objected to the project, which received final approval from the planning commission in July 2003, because it fronts a narrow alley and poses a hazard for emergency vehicles and other motorists.

Three days later, the Boonsboro Town Council passed an emergency ordinance prohibiting houses from fronting alleys. That ordinance became effective 10 days later.

Habitat rallied volunteers to speed up the construction so a substantial amount of building would be complete before the ordinance went into effect. The amount of work completed made the houses exempt from the new regulations.

Sherry Brown Cooper, executive director of Habitat's county chapter, said Wednesday that Boone's decision was "a positive step" for the project.

"This says we're law abiding," Cooper said.

Cooper said the group is eyeing Nov. 20 as a completion date for the connected houses because one of the families is living in temporary housing. She has said the houses are to be built in two to three months, with work scheduled to begin on Sept. 20. She said it normally takes six months to build one house.

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