Relating to Real Estate
BWRR’s Condemnation Action for MAGLEV May Proceed
The Court of Special Appeals (CSA) reversed the decision of the Circuit Court for Baltimore City which had dismissed the condemnation action filed by Baltimore Washington Rapid Rail, LLC (BWRR) regarding property in the Westport area of Baltimore City in connection with its proposed super-conducting magnetic levitation train (SCMAGLEV). Baltimore Washington Rapid Rail, LLC v. Westport Cap. Dev., LLC, No. 983, Sept. Term,2021, 2022 WL 633534 (Md. Ct. Spec. App. Mar. 4, 2022). The proposed SCMAGLEV, which BWRR has been planning for about ten years, is touted to travel at speeds up to 311 miles per hour and would permit a trip between Baltimore City and Washington, D.C. in fifteen minutes. The SCMAGLEV would operate between those two cities with an intermediate stop at Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport.
In 2015, BWRR obtained the approval of the Maryland Public Service Commission (the PSC) to transfer to it the railroad franchise that had been abandoned by the Washington, Baltimore, and Annapolis Electric Railroad Company (WBA). In 2017, Baltimore City adopted a resolution consenting to the transfer.
BWRR entered into discussions with the owner of the property (Stonewall), but they could not reach an agreement. BWRR filed a Complaint for Condemnation in the circuit court, but the circuit court granted Stonewall’s motion to dismiss. BWRR appealed to the CSA.
The basis for the circuit court’s decision was that it found that Baltimore City had not consented to the transfer of the WBA franchise. The CSA disagreed with this ruling. The CSA noted that Baltimore City had reserved the right to permit BWRR to operate on public roads and ways, but the CSA held, “This case, however, is not about accessing property via Baltimore City public ways. This case is only about whether BWRR has the authority to seek to acquire via condemnation a privately owned parcel of land.”
At the request of BWRR, the CSA also considered other potential grounds for dismissal that the circuit court had mentioned but had not ruled on. The CSA found that PSC's Order granting BWRR's application to transfer the WBA Railroad Franchise included the right to exercise the franchise. Stonewall had alleged that BWRR was not a railroad, but the CSA determined that in the context of motion to dismiss, BWRR’s allegation that it was a railroad was presumed to be true. Finally, the CSA held that the four year statute of limitations to commence a condemnation action pursuant to Real Property Article §12-105.1 was not applicable because BWRR is not an instrumentality of the State.
For more information, contact Edward J. Levin.
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