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Annapolis Real Estate Law Blog

Maryland's apartment market is thriving, more construction ahead

For those of us who remember the frenetic conversion of apartment buildings into condominiums during the real estate boom, it may feel strange to see so much apartment construction activity these days. According to the Maryland Department of Housing and Development, permits for multifamily projects rose an impressive 63.7 percent from January to February. From 2013, the increase of 394.5 percent was mindboggling. The national numbers were good, but they did not come near Maryland's: 28.6 percent month-over-month and 23.8 percent year-over-year.

The trend is illustrated by recent headlines from Baltimore. After a wave of construction last year, development of new projects will slow. As those apartments are leased, though, demand will increase; construction should pick up again soon.

It's important to remember that any slowdown in construction is likely a lull rather than a sign of stagnancy. Developers are planning another 1,800 units at least for Baltimore, with more than half of those downtown.

Construction isn't booming near Fort Meade: WWII shell was a dud p2

We are talking about defects in real property law. The topic may sound a little like a law school class, but anyone buying or selling property should understand how the law treats patent (obvious) and latent (hidden) defects. Please note, though, that this is meant as a general discussion, not a close explanation of Maryland law.

What makes something patent and not latent is what it takes to discover it. A reasonable inspection of the property should uncover any patent defects. In either commercial or residential property, a patent defect could be a crack in the foundation or a leaky roof. Anything that should turn up in an inspection could be a patent defect.

Construction isn't booming near Fort Meade: WWII shell was a dud

Maryland is nothing if not proud of its ties to the military. The U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, a number of army bases around the state, the air facility that most of us still think of as Andrews Air Force Base and the famous, if not infamous, Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda all add up to a significant military presence here. And, thanks to the Maryland's superior ports, that presence goes back a couple of centuries at least.

So with all of the active military around for so long, it is not entirely surprising that construction workers would come across the occasional unexploded ordnance, as workers did recently at a construction site near Fort Meade. To avoid a more unpleasant surprise, authorities evacuated nearby homes while investigators checked out the device.

Maryland neighborhood feels impact of Panama Canal expansion p2

We are talking about the plan to open a CSX Corp. facility in the Morrell Park neighborhood of Baltimore. The facility, slated for the Mount Clare rail yard, is necessary for CSX to increase the number of containers it moves to and from the Port of Baltimore -- and the number of containers moved every day should increase significantly when the Panama Canal expansion is completed in 2015.

The proposal would solve the railroad's dilemma with the Howard Street Tunnel. The tunnel cannot accommodate rail cars "double-stacked" with containers. The railroad proposes moving containers by truck between the port and the rail yard, thus avoiding the tunnel. Coming to and leaving from the rail yard, trains can be double-stacked. For the neighborhood near the rail yard, though, the switch means 300 additional tractor-trailer trips past their houses ever day.

Maryland neighborhood feels impact of Panama Canal expansion

A CSX Corp. cargo facility planned for Southwest Baltimore is more than a little behind schedule. Originally scheduled for completion in 2015, the best the railroad and state and local lawmakers can hope for is wrapping up some time in 2016. The delay will mean losing a year's worth of increased shipping: The Panama Canal expansion is scheduled for completion in 2015.

The canal expansion is a tremendous opportunity for the railroad. Larger ships will be able to carry more cargo through the canal, and the railroad will be moving more containers between the port and destinations further inland. It seems that the most cost-effective way for the railroad to accommodate the additional traffic is to double-stack containers. Unfortunately, to leave the port's container terminal, trains must run through the Howard Street Tunnel, and the two-container freight cars are too high to make it through the tunnel.

On the street where they live: Neighbors ask for changes to plan

The residents of a Perryman neighborhood understand that they cannot stop development. Hartford County zoned the narrow strip of land between the Aberdeen Proving Ground and Amtrak's Northeast Corridor for industrial development decades ago as part of a plan for the area to become a regional manufacturing and distribution hub. The residents get it, but they want the developers and the county to think carefully about access and traffic issues and the environmental impact of the recently proposed plan before moving ahead with it.

The proposal for Eastgate at Perryman comes from a Baltimore firm that envisions a "build-to-suit" development on the 243-acre parcel. The developer hopes the site will be home to distribution centers for retailers and consumer product companies. Two buildings are planned, at least initially -- there may be room for a third -- but nothing will happen until tenants are secured. In all, the buildings would offer more than 2.25 million square feet of space.

Lenders' forgiveness a little short-lived for many borrowers

Anyone with a mortgage who has gone through a foreclosure may breathe a sigh of relief when it's all over. What he may not realize is that the clock has started ticking on something called a deficiency judgment. And now that Maryland's foreclosure backlog is dwindling, consumer advocates are concerned that the state could be in for a rush of deficiency judgments.

In a foreclosure auction or a short sale, the property sells for a price lower than the mortgage debt owed. The lender loses money -- but just for a while, because the lender can then sue the borrower for the difference. In Maryland, lenders have 12 years from the date of sale -- the date the loss was incurred -- to file this default judgment.

We're just wild about Wildlands, but they come at a cost

Maryland will preserve an additional 22,000 acres as wildlands if state legislators can reconcile two bills currently under consideration. One bill has passed the House and is now in the Senate; another has passed the Senate and is now in the House. An agreement may not be far off.

The Department of Natural Resources describes the Wildlands Preservation System as parcels of land or water that are owned by the state and that have "retained their wilderness character or contain rare or vanishing species of plant or animal life or similar features worthy of preservation." The General Assembly must approve the designation, although legislators have not set aside land for more than a decade. The program itself has been around for more than 40 years.

City says no to Royal Farms: a convenience store in deli's clothes

It sounds like a riddle: When is a delicatessen a convenience store?

The answer, typical for a law blog, is neither clever nor simple: It depends. Royal Farms says its planned location at Annapolis City Dock is a deli. The planning department has come down on the convenience store side, a position that will keep Royal Farms from opening its new store for the time being. The company will argue against the ruling at the March 4 meeting of the Annapolis Board of Appeals.

Royal Farms is a Baltimore-based company with 155 stores in the Mid-Atlantic region. According to the company website, since its inception in 1959 the brand has been all about "real fresh food served real fast" for dining in or taking out. Visitors to a Royal Farms restaurant can also purchase convenience products and fuel.

Development would literally level the playing field for area kids

Anne Arundel County may be saying goodbye to a safe place for kids to gather in the winter. This winter, especially, should have seen families flocking to the site at the intersection of Johns Hopkins and Riedel roads on the way to Crofton from Gambrills. It is, after all, a terrific sledding hill.

It is also the future site of a long-term care facility for seniors and patients with Alzheimer's disease. The project's developers plan to level the 10-acre property to build a 90,000 square-foot, one-story structure. Their target completion date is summer 2016.