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Judge's DRRA ruling due soon 
By: Jack Shaum  September 9, 2003 
CENTREVILLE - A final judgment on the Developer's Rights and Responsibilities Agreement (DRRA) for the proposed Four Seasons development is expected soon from a Queen Anne's County judge - a judgment that could lead to either the resumption of work on the project, or an appeal of the judgment by the county commissioners.

Judge John W. Sause Jr. said he will issue a judgment based on his recent memorandum of law that rejected the commissioners' claim that the DRRA is not valid. He made the statement at the end of a Sept. 8 court proceeding in which developer K. Hovnanian asked that the commissioners be ordered to specifically perform their responsibilities under the DRRA, which had been approved by their predecessors. The judge said he is clearing his schedule later this week to work on the ruling.

In January, the commissioners issued a memo informing county departments to stop all proceedings relating to Four Seasons while they sought to revisit the DRRA and determine whether to proceed under it, renegotiate it, or revoke it. Hovnanian later sued, alleging breach of contract by the commissioners and asked that the court order them to "specifically perform their obligations and responsibilities" outlined in the agreement.

The DRRA outlines the company's obligations to the county in return for approval of more intensive development near the Bay and its tributaries. Four Seasons would be an age-restricted community of 1,350 homes north of Route 50 in Chester and Stevensville.

Hovnanian's attorneys submitted to the judge on Sept. 8 a draft judgment for him to consider. Jefferson Blomquist, an attorney for the commissioners, took issue with some of the language in it. Judge Sause said he would consider the draft and would consult with attorneys for both sides before issuing a final judgment. 

"This will make the memorandum of law a final judgment and require the county to get on with the project," said Hovnanian attorney Joseph Stevens.

"This is very positive," said Mark Stemen, division president of Hovnanian. "It's time to move forward with the community."

Blomquist said that while a final judgment from the judge would permit the county to file an appeal, no decision has yet been made to do so. "We'll see what the order is first. If it's what we're assuming it will be, there is merit for an appeal. That will be the commissioners' decision, but they haven't made it yet." he said.

He went on to say that he believes the Maryland Court of Appeals would be inclined to consider the case if it is appealed because the DRRA concept is relatively new to the state. "It's a first-time issue," he said.

Still to be resolved by the court at some point is Hovnanian's claim that it is entitled to damages on the grounds that it has been unable to proceed with the project for the past eight months. 

© The Star Democrat  2003 

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