Purple Line Update: Project Timeline And Current Status Of Construction


The State of Maryland awarded a $5.6 billion dollar contract to design, build and operate the Purple Line light rail project in April 2016 and authorized the contractor, the Purple Line Transit Partners, to proceed with “pre-construction activities” while the State pursued finalizing a full funding agreement with the federal government, which had promised to contribute $900 million dollars to the project. On July 28, 2016 the State announced that the formal signing of a full funding agreement with the Federal Transit Administration had been scheduled to take place on August 8, 2016. It was anticipated that construction of the Purple Line would begin shortly thereafter. But a judge on the United States District Court for the District of Columbia had other ideas.

August 3, 2016         
The U.S. District Court (Leon, J.) vacated the Record of Decision (“ROD”), which was the required federal approval of the Purple Line, and directed the State to prepare a supplemental environmental impact statement addressing whether a decline in Metro ridership would impact the Purple Line’s ridership. The vacation of the ROD precluded the State from receiving the $900 million of federal funding which had been committed to the project. Thus, the court’s order put the entire project in jeopardy.

December 16, 2016
The State advised the District Court that it had reviewed the ridership issue and determined that no change in Metro ridership would adversely impact the Purple Line, as the Purple Line would still be needed even if no Metro riders transferred to the light rail. The State asked the Court to reinstate the ROD.

December 2016 – March 2017
The Court failed to rule on the State’s request that the ROD be reinstated, so the project remained stalled and in jeopardy of failing completely.

March 31, 2017
The State filed a motion asking that the Court rule on its pending motion expeditiously. Specifically, the State asked that the Court rule on its motion no later than April 28, 2017. The Court failed to decide the State’s motion by the end of April as the State had requested it to do and the court continued to hold the State’s motion under advisement without issuing a decision.

May 12, 2017
The State sought a writ of mandamus from the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia asking the Court of Appeals to order the District Court to issue a final appealable decision in the case “forthwith.”

May 22, 2017
The District Court finally issued a decision in favor of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit and against the State holding that the State’s failure to prepare a supplemental environmental impact statement was arbitrary and capricious—and the District Court reiterated its requirement that the State prepare a new environmental impact statement before it would be permitted to move forward with the project.

May 29, 2017
The District Court issued a final judgment on the underlying lawsuit, which made it possible for the State to finally file an appeal.

June 2, 2017
The State filed a motion asking the District Court to stay its
August 3, 2016 Order vacating the ROD pending the State’s appeal of the court’s decision.

June 15, 2017
The District Court held a hearing on the State’s request that it stay its Order vacating the ROD pending the State’s appeal. The State asked the District Court to rule expeditiously on its motion. At the hearing the District Court advised the State that it could not “predict” how long it may take to issue a decision on the State’s motion for a stay pending appeal. The court stated that it was going to write an opinion because “[t]he Court of Appeals likes things with ribbons and bows on them, so they will get ribbons and bows.”

June 21, 2017
Because the District Court had failed to rule on its motion, the State filed a motion in the Court of Appeals asking the appellate court to stay the District Court’s order pending appeal.

June 26, 2017
The District Court issued its Order denying the State’s request for a stay pending appeal.

July 18, 2017
The Court of Appeals issued an Order reinstating the ROD pending its consideration of the State’s appeal of the District Court’s judgment.

Once the Record of Decision was reinstated, the State aggressively pursued formalizing the federal government’s commitment of $900 million to the project. Construction of the project was still effectively stayed, as the State could not go forward with the project without the promised federal funding.

August 28, 2017    
The Federal Transit Administration signed the Full Funding Agreement with the State officially committing federal funds to the project.
    
Construction of the Purple Line is now over a full year behind the original schedule. Consequently, the State and the contractor moved aggressively to begin construction and make up for lost time.  

August 29, 2017    
The very next day after the FTA signed the Full Funding Agreement, the contractor posted public notices that the Georgetown Branch Trail would be closed for the anticipated five-year period of construction beginning Tuesday, September 5, 2017. In addition, property acquisition and tenant and owner relocation activities were accelerated.  And, because the Maryland Office of Attorney General, which prosecutes eminent domain cases for the Purple Line, was overwhelmed by the number of open and unresolved cases, the State has engaged a private law firm to handle some of the cases to expedite the property acquisition process.

The State’s acceleration of construction and property acquisition has led to many questions from the public concerning the schedule of construction and when, exactly, construction activities will begin at different points along the 16-mile route.

September 28, 2017
The Montgomery County Council held a hearing where it asked the Purple Line contractor (Purple Line Transit Partners) and State representatives to advise the County Council of the expected construction schedule and many other issues. The contractor advised the County Council that it was working on a master construction schedule, but it has not yet completed that effort. The contractor advised that once the schedule was complete it would be posted on the Purple Line Project Website.  You may view a videotape of the hearing by clicking here.

In addition, the contractor explained that it hoped to provide weekly updates to the construction schedule as the project moves forward. And interested members of the public could sign up to receive project updates and other information by Email or text by clicking on this page of the website.  Finally, the contractor will hold regular meetings with the Community Advisory Councils that have been formed to be liaisons between the project and the community. A list of the Community Advisory Councils and how to contact them may also be found on the project website by clicking here.

The eminent domain attorneys at Miller, Miller & Canby will review any offer made by the State without charge to determine whether we believe you may be entitled to greater compensation than has been offered by the State.  If you are interested in a no obligation review of your offer, or if you have any questions about your rights or the condemnation process, please call our office at 301-762-5212 and ask to speak with one of our eminent domain attorneys, Jim Thompson or Joe Suntum.  To learn more about our eminent domain and condemnation law practice and representative cases, click here.

 





MM&C Litigation Attorney Successfully Represents Homeowners Against Fraudulent Developer


You may have heard the following story featured in the Washington Post and WAMU 88.5 (NPR radio).  A private developer from Virginia purchased dilapidated residential properties in the District of Columbia for renovation and resale.  The developer submitted building plans to the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) and obtained approval, but deviated from the plans to save costs and increase profits.  This included ignoring important fire safety requirements, such as sprinkler systems and fire barriers between floors.  The developer renovated the properties using unlicensed contractors who performed sub-standard work in violation of the building code.  To avoid detection by DCRA, the developer hired private, third-party inspectors to review and approve the construction.  Then, the developer sold the properties to unsuspecting buyers under false pretenses by claiming the properties were “totally renovated” or “renovated from top to bottom.”  Once the buyers began living in the properties, they slowly realized they were deceived and left with a property that violates the law and is not marketable without substantial repairs.

The developer engaged in this scheme with over 30 properties between 2012 and 2016, until lawyers, including MMC Attorney Michael Campbell, took action and shut down the developer.  Michael Campbell, represented five victims in litigation against the developer, which included claims of breach of contract, fraud and violation of the Consumer Protection Procedures Act.  Two of the cases were resolved to the satisfaction of the clients prior to trial, while a third case is still pending in the Superior Court for the District of Columbia.

After several home owners complained to DCRA, the Attorney General for the District of Columbia finally took action and sued the developer for ignoring stop work orders and repeated violations of building codes and consumer protection laws.  After several months of litigation, the developer agreed to stop working in the District and pay $1.3M into a restitution fund for victims.  According to Mr. Campbell, that amount is insufficient to compensate all the property owners who need to make their properties code compliant.  As a result, more private litigation is necessary to fully compensate owners for their losses.

Miller, Miller & Canby has represented property owners in Montgomery County and the Washington DC area since its inception over 70 years ago. The firm's attorneys bring their trial skills and deep knowledge of real property to this field of law, which many other practitioners tend to treat administratively. The extensive breadth of knowledge and experience of the firm's real estate attorneys is evidenced by the wide variety of cases Miller, Miller & Canby trial attorneys have handled -- both at trial and appellate levels.

Michael Campbell
is a partner in the litigation group at Miller, Miller & Canby. In addition to trial and appellate advocacy, his practice focuses on real estate litigation and property tax assessment appeals.  Please feel free to contact Mr. Campbell at 301.762.5212 or send him an email. For more information about the firm’s litigation practice and representative cases, click here.





Maryland-DC Wireless Association 2017 Forum Lineup Starts Strong with Spring Event


As part of its Speaker Series, the Maryland-DC Wireless Association held a symposium on March 22, drawing more than 150 attendees to hear a prestigious panel of leading industry executives. Speakers included Jim Young, COO of Crown Castle; Jennifer Fritzsche, Managing Director of Wells Fargo Securities; Morgan O’Brien, Vice Chairman of pdvWireless Inc.(and a founder of the former Nextel Communications); and Phillip Rosenthal, Senior Vice President of American Tower Corporation.

“The Speaker Series brings industry veterans together to identify issues and opportunities in wireless telecommunciations,” said Sean Hughes, a member of Miller, Miller & Canby’s Land Use practice and MDDCWA Board Member. “We are dedicated to advancing our industry and providing a productive and valuable platform for the exchange of ideas.”


Founded in 2007, the MDDCWA includes members who are involved with the deployment, operations and maintenance of wireless networks, including cell carriers, tower companies, A&E firms, surveyors, general contractors and others. Issues such as infrastructure, zoning and regulatory matters are key priorities for the organization.

To learn more about future association events, contact Sean Hughes, or visit the MDDCWA website.

Sean P. Hughes is an attorney in Miller, Miller & Canby’s Land Use practice group. His career spans more than two decades of focus in legal and wireless telecommunications and he has represented clients in land use and zoning matters throughout the Mid-Atlantic.  To learn more about the firm’s Land Use and Zoning practice, contact Sean.
 





Maryland Real Property Tax Exemptions


Maryland’s tax laws contain a variety of tax exemptions for different types of real property uses.  It’s important to note that just because a property owner is a church, charity or non-profit organization, such status does not automatically qualify the real estate for a property tax exemption.  Additionally, a tax exemption is not the same as a tax credit, which is available to certain property owners under a different section of the Maryland Code.  

View the article by MM&C Litigation Attorney, Michael Campbell, which discusses some of the more common tax exemptions available and the process for obtaining an exemption by clicking the download attachment link below.

Miller, Miller & Canby has been handling assessment appeals of various types of commercial properties in Maryland for more than 30 years.  In 2016, we obtained over $20,000,000 in property assessment reductions for our clients.  Our litigation attorneys regularly represent clients at the assessor level, before the Property Tax Assessment Appeals Board (PTAAB) and in the Maryland Tax Court.  We have successfully appealed the assessments on office buildings, hotels, casinos, retail stores, industrial sites, warehouses, apartment buildings and land at various stages of development.  

Michael Campbell is a partner in the litigation group at Miller, Miller & Canby. In addition to trial and appellate advocacy, his practice focuses on real estate litigation and property tax assessment appeals.  Please feel free to contact Mr. Campbell at 301.762.5212 or send him an email for property tax guidance.  For more information about the firm’s Maryland property tax appeals practice and representative cases, click here.
 





Property Owners Have 45 Days to Appeal New Maryland Property Tax Assessments


Last week, the Maryland Department of Assessments and Taxation (SDAT) issued new Assessment Notices to owners of one-third of all commercial and residential properties in Maryland.  Property owners have 45 days from the date of the Assessment Notice to challenge these new assessments.  The “first-level” appeal allows the owner the opportunity to convince the assessor that the assessment is incorrect.  If the assessor refuses to reduce the assessment, the owner may file a further appeal within 30 days to the county Property Tax Assessment Appeals Board (PTAAB).   The Board will consider the evidence and issue a written decision, usually within two weeks.  If the property owner is still dissatisfied, another appeal may be filed to the Maryland Tax Court.

Miller, Miller & Canby has been protesting the assessments of various types of commercial properties and high-value residential properties in Maryland for more than 30 years and has obtained substantial reductions in real property assessments for our clients.  Our litigation attorneys regularly represent clients before the local Assessment Office, PTAAB and the Maryland Tax Court.  We have successfully appealed the assessments on office buildings, retail stores, senior living centers, warehouses, casinos, apartment buildings, cemeteries and property being developed.  Let us help you reduce your Maryland property assessments in 2017.  

Michael Campbell
is a partner in the litigation group at Miller, Miller & Canby. In addition to trial and appellate advocacy, his practice focuses on real estate litigation and property tax assessment appeals.  Please feel free to contact Mr. Campbell at 301.762.5212 or send him an email for property tax guidance or to help reduce your commercial Maryland property tax assessment.  For more information about the firm’s Maryland property tax appeals practice and representative cases, click here.
 





Jim Thompson’s Successful MD Tax Appeal Case Chosen as one of the “Top 10 Ad Valorem Tax Cases"


The 46th Annual Wichita Program Appraisal for Ad Valorem Taxation of Communications, Energy and Transportation Properties was held on July 24-28, 2016 at Wichita State University.  MM&C litigation attorneys, James (“Jim”) Thompson and Michael Campbell, represented Charles County, and David Lyon represented the State Department of Assessments and Taxation against the taxpayer’s efforts to obtain a dramatic reduction in the value of an electric generating plant in Charles County.  After a lengthy trial, they were successful in the reported case of GenOn Mid-Atlantic, LLC v. State Dept. of Assessments and Taxation, 2015 WL 9875283 (Md. Tax 2015).  This case was selected as one of the top ten significant ad valorem cases in 2015-2016 because of the complexity of the issues and the large dollar amount involved.  The case involved personal property assessments on property owned by a non-regulated coal plant in excess of One Billion Dollars.  Witnesses for the taxpayer stated that the fair market value of the plant would have been severely reduced by a number of factors, among them the contention that coal plants were becoming obsolete as new environmental regulations added increased costs to their operation and the availability of cheap natural gas made them non-competitive.  The Tax Court considered those issues, but also evaluated the long-term economics of the plant and ruled that the “highest and best use” of the property was a continuation of the existing plant, and there was nothing obsolete about the coal technology as of the valuation dates in 2009-2010.  The Court affirmed the assessments.

For a detailed summary of the case, click here.  For more information regarding the Annual Wichita Program Appraisal for Ad Valorem Taxation, click here.

Miller, Miller & Canby has been handling tax assessment appeals for owners of various types of properties in Maryland for more than 30 years, and occasionally represents governmental entities trying to protect their tax base.  In 2014, MM&C’s attorneys obtained millions of dollars in property assessment reductions for its clients.  Our litigation attorneys regularly represent clients at the assessor level, before the Property Tax Assessment Appeals Board (PTAAB), and in the Maryland Tax Court.  We have successfully appealed the assessments on office buildings, hotels, casinos, retail stores, industrial sites, warehouses, apartment buildings and land at various stages of development.  Jim Thompson and Michael Campbell have headed up the firm’s ad valorem tax assessment practice for years.

Also, Jim Thompson and Joe Suntum have an extensive practice in eminent domain and real estate valuation litigation.  Currently, Joe is the Maryland Member in the Owners’ Counsel of America, a national network of property rights attorneys with demonstrated excellence in this area, focusing upon the representation of landowners in eminent domain litigation.  With their breadth of legal experience, proven results and mature judgment, they have been extremely successful.

Please feel free to contact Mr. Thompson, Mr. Campbell or Mr. Suntum, at (301) 762-5212 for any property value litigation issues.  For more information about the firm’s litigation practice and representative cases, click here.





Michael Campbell, Litigation Attorney, Published in the August 2016 IPT Insider


The Institute for Professionals in Taxation published Michael Campbell's article that analyzes a recent decision by Maryland’s highest appellate court concerning the interpretation of the “date of finality” rule, which was thought by many practitioners to exclude comparable sales after January 1 of the tax cycle. The Court of Appeals interpreted the statute expansively to allow sales after the date of finality in certain circumstances, joining such states as New York, New Jersey, Illinois and Oregon. Mr. Campbell's article is published in the August 2016 issue of The IPT Insider.  Click here to view the issue or click the download attachment link below.

Michael Campbell
leads the Litigation practice of Miller, Miller & Canby. In addition to appellate advocacy, he concentrates his practice in the following areas of litigation:  Business & Commercial, Real Estate, Residential & Commercial Construction, and Maryland Property Tax Appeals. He has particular expertise in property tax litigation and appeals. Please feel free to contact Mr. Campbell at 301.762.5212 or send him an email for commercial property tax guidance in Maryland. For more information about the firm's Maryland Property Tax Appeals practice click here.





Maryland’s Highest Court Affirms “Date of Finality” Rule for Property Tax Assessments


In a recent decision by the Maryland Court of Appeals concerning the interpretation of the “date of finality” rule, which was thought by many practitioners to limit the consideration of comparable sales to a time frame before January 1.  The Court interpreted the statute more expansively to allow sales after the date of finality in certain circumstances, joining such states as New York, New Jersey, Illinois and Oregon.

View the article by MM&C Litigation Attorney, Michael Campbell, which reviews the recent ruling and its effect on property tax appeals in Maryland by clicking the download attachment link below.

Miller, Miller & Canby has been handling assessment appeals of various types of commercial properties in Maryland for more than 30 years.  In 2014, we obtained over $20,000,000 in property assessment reductions for our clients.  Our litigation attorneys regularly represent clients at the assessor level, before the Property Tax Assessment Appeals Board (PTAAB) and in the Maryland Tax Court.  We have successfully appealed the assessments on office buildings, hotels, casinos, retail stores, industrial sites, warehouses, apartment buildings and land at various stages of development.  

Michael Campbell
leads the litigation practice group of Miller, Miller & Canby. In addition to trial and appellate advocacy, his practice focuses on real estate litigation and property tax assessment appeals.  Please feel free to contact Mr. Campbell at 301.762.5212 or send him an email for property tax guidance.  For more information about the firm’s Maryland property tax appeals practice and representative cases, click here.
 





MM&C Eminent Domain Attorney Joseph Suntum Awarded Prestigious CRE® Designation


Miller, Miller & Canby is pleased to announce that litigation attorney Joseph P. Suntum, was recently awarded the prestigious CRE® designation from the Counselors of Real Estate®.

“I am honored and humbled to receive the CRE designation from the Counselors of Real Estate,” said Suntum. “I am confident that collaboration with other CREs across the country and the globe will assist me in providing the best possible representation to my clients.”

Click here
to read the May 18, 2016 press release by The Owners' Counsel of America.

Joe Suntum is a Principal at Miller, Miller & Canby, focusing his practice in eminent domain and condemnation law. U.S. News - Best Lawyers awarded Miller, Miller & Canby a “First-Tier” honor for its Eminent Domain and Condemnation practice. Mr. Suntum is the Maryland member attorney for the Owner’s Counsel of America, a nationwide network of the nation’s top condemnation attorneys.

For information about Miller, Miller & Canby’s eminent domain and condemnation practice click here, or contact Mr. Suntum directly at 301.762.5212 or via email.





Montgomery County Council Passes Increase on Recordation Tax


The Montgomery County Council passed legislation on May 18th, which will impose additional costs on property owners engaged in transfers or certain financial transactions.   The new law, introduced as Expedited Bill 15-16 and signed into law by the County Executive on May 25th, increases the rate of the Recordation Taxes (or “stamp taxes”) for any transaction which occurs after September 1, 2016.  

What the Increase Means for Homeowners
The current rate(s) imposed by Montgomery County are $3.45 per $500 of consideration payable, or debt secured in the case of financings, on the first $500,000.  For any amount in excess of $500,000, the rate of tax increases to $5.00 per $500.  The law raises these rates by $1.00 to $4.45 on the first $500,000. For amounts over $500,000 the increase is $1.75, to $6.75 per $500.  To soften this blow on the sale of residential owner-occupied property, which in most instances enjoyed an exemption from recordation taxes on the first $50,000 of consideration, the new law increases this exemption amount to $100,000.  As before, this exemption applies only on the sale of owner-occupied property to a buyer intending to use the property as their principal residence. But the law qualifies that the buyer must be an “individual”, which may be interpreted by the Montgomery County Transfer Office to deny the exemption on transactions where the “individual” intending to occupy the property might desire to acquire title through a revocable or special needs trust or other estate planning device.

Implications for Commercial Transactions
For commercial transactions, including refinancing, the implications on costs of transactions become more costly if the financing is one that cannot be structured to take advantage of certain exemptions that may be available. This type of exemption may include the recently limited utility of financing using an Indemnity Deed of Trust loan structure or considerations in loan structuring when contemplating a refinancing.   While both provide some measure of relief, the ability to fully avoid the imposition of recordation taxes has become more restricted and, at least in Montgomery County, the costs of those transactions will soon become more expensive.  Indeed, some members of the County Council  supported revisiting the rate to be imposed on amounts over $1,000,000 to an even higher rate.  It is recommended that consultation with an attorney, along with discussions with your loan officer, regarding these increased impositions (or prospect of potential future increases) be undertaken in order to evaluate options for loan structuring that may help to minimize such costs.  

Robert Gough is a principal of the firm and serves as the firm's Managing Shareholder.  Mr. Gough focuses his practice in the areas of commercial real estate transactions and leasing, commercial and residential closings, and related matters. With more than two decades of legal experience, he represents a variety of developers, institutions and individuals in the acquisition, ownership and disposition of real property.

2016 marks the 70th anniversary Miller, Miller & Canby has represented businesses and property owners. Please feel free to contact Robert Gough or any of the real estate attorneys with Miller, Miller and Canby for a complete range of transactional and advisory services.  For more information on the firm's real estate practice, click here.





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