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Belward farm fight continues

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Published on: Thursday, October 04, 2012

By Daryl Buchanan

GAITHERSBURG- Plaintiffs involved in the Belward Farm civil suit filed for a summary judgment claiming Johns Hopkins has no right to build a plan science center on the farm. 

Belward Farm is a valuable area of land in Montgomery County that has been argued over for years. Next month it will be a year since a lawsuit regarding the land went to court. 

September 25 John Newell filed a motion for a summary judgment in the donor intent lawsuit against John’s Hopkins University over the future use of Belward Farm. 

The suit was originally filed in November 2011 due to claims that the plans Johns Hopkins University had for the land were not in line with the original agreement made by Elizabeth Banks.

The original plan called for the land to be the site of a low rise academic campus of no more than 1.4 million square feet. Johns Hopkins proposed a plan that called for 23 buildings ranging in size from three to 13 stories and parking for 12,320 cars. Johns Hopkins says half the buildings would be office space, 40 percent for life sciences, and 10 percent retail space. The plan would use 4.7 million square feet.

"Based on all that we've learned during discovery and from our fact and expert witness, we are more confident than ever in the merits of our case," said Tim Newell, lead plaintiff and spokesperson for the donor family. "The facts are indisputable and the law is on our side, so we are hopeful the court will grant summary judgment in our favor."

To support the summary judgment Newell applied Maryland contract law to the contract between Johns Hopkins and the donors, zoning laws in effect at the time of the contract signing, Johns Hopkins past efforts to rezone the land, and testimony from witnesses.

"Aunt Liz [Elizabeth Banks] did not support the building of a high-density, commercial Science City on her property that requires no Hopkins presence other than as a landlord.  Her donation was for something on a much smaller scale with JHU as the 'keystone' noncommercial presence," said Newell.

"The fact is Johns Hopkins University would not own Belward Farm if not for the generous donation my family made and that donation would not have been made without the restrictions on the development of the property that JHU agreed to." 

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