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Role Models tries to block transfer of Ritchie land

December 30, 2004|by TARA REILLY

tarar@herald-mail.com

CASCADE - A past tenant of the former Fort Ritchie U.S. Army base has asked a federal court to keep in place an injunction that bars the transfer of the base to the PenMar Development Corp.

Role Models America Inc. filed the request this month in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, Donald Temple, the organization's lawyer, said Wednesday.

According to the court document, Role Models claims the Army, the U.S. Department of Education and PenMar has "strategically and collaboratively, based upon illegal motivation, intentionally and maliciously" tried to keep the organization from acquiring part or all of the former base.

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The request for the permanent injunction was in response to a recent request by the Army and the Department of Education that the court lift the injunction.

Role Models operated a military-style school for high school dropouts at the former base from 2000 to July 2002, when PenMar evicted the school. PenMar claimed the school owed about $400,000 in rent and utility costs.

PenMar was created by the state in 1997 to redevelop the base, which the Army shut down in 1998.

The injunction has been a snag in PenMar's plans to sell the 638-acre base to Corporate Office Properties Trust (COPT) of Columbia, Md., a developer that plans to turn the base into a residential and commercial center.

PenMar and COPT agreed to the sale in July, but the transaction can't take place until the property is transferred from the Army to PenMar.

Role Models filed for the injunction in July 2001, claiming it wasn't given proper notice that it was possible under federal law for the school to acquire base property at no cost.

Under federal guidelines, the military may transfer surplus base properties in conjunction with other federal agencies for uses such as schools, parks and prisons.

Instead, starting in March 2000, Role Models subleased 253,000 square feet from PenMar for about $1.3 million a year.

A judge refused to grant the injunction, but that decision was overturned in early 2003 by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.

The Court of Appeals ruled that PenMar, the Army and the Department of Education violated legal requirements because an advertisement announcing the property's availability was faulty, according to court documents.

The Army and Department of Education claimed in a recent court document that the advertising process has since been corrected and asked that the injunction be lifted.

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