PenMar agreed in July to sell the approximately 630-acre base to COPT for $9 million. The price will drop to $5 million if COPT creates 1,400 jobs over nine years. The sale has been on hold because of a federal injunction preventing the Army from transferring the property to PenMar.
PenMar was created by the state in 1997 to redevelop the base, which the Army closed in 1998.
"PenMar approved the Purchase and Sales Agreement without obtaining a qualified appraisal stating the fair market value of the property, without ever having to the public or any other parties that the entire base was for sale, and without having sought or solicited competitive bids from any other potential buyers, including COPT's direct competitors. As such, only COPT knew Fort Ritchie was for sale," the suit alleges.
Lemon and Biser made several requests of the court, including that it void a sale agreement for the property between PenMar and COPT; that it remove PenMar as the authority in redeveloping the base and put in charge Washington County or another appropriate group; and that it require that appraisals and competitive bids be sought for proposed sales of the property, the suit states.
Among the suit's claim are that COPT's redevelopment plan fails to retain a significant amount of open space and proposes "excessive commercial development," excessive commercial and residential building and proposes building in historic and open space areas.
The property owners also allege that PenMar, the Army and COPT violated the federal Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) Act, the National Environmental Policy Act and the National Historic Preservation Act.
They claim in the suit that PenMar abandoned a redevelopment plan approved for the base in 1997 by "secretly" agreeing to sell the property to COPT in July.
COPT's redevelopment plan is vastly different than the 1997 plan approved by the redevelopment authority that preceded PenMar, the suit states. The 1997 plan is known in the suit as "the community's development plan."
"It fails to implement the community's vision for property: The COPT plan does not 'preserve the site's natural beauty and open space' as called for in the community's adopted redevelopment plan and proposes an overly dense residential and commercial development scheme that is highly inappropriate for the rural mountaintop area where Fort Ritchie is located," the suit states.
PenMar board Chairman George Griffin said Wednesday that the suit contains baseless allegations.
"Why is he trying to throw another obstacle in the way of something that is clearly good for the community and is good for the county and state?" Griffin said of Lemon.
"Mr. Lemon should be careful about allegations he made that can't be backed up," Griffin said. "We will see him in court."
Rand Griffin, CEO of COPT, said COPT plans to remain under contract with PenMar. George Griffin and Rand Griffin are not related.
"Unfounded lawsuits by two individuals are not going to scare us away," Rand Griffin said.
Lemon, when contacted Wednesday night, said the claims in the lawsuit are based on existing documents.
"We believe that there are a lot of things in that lawsuit that need to be looked at very closely - not only by the judge, but by the community," Lemon said. "They can make their opinions heard in front of a judge."