The Quarry DRRA has many issues regarding the undisclosed property interests which are required by the DRRA law. Some of these issues were previously discussed here.
Below is a copy of an email sent to the County Council regarding whether Chase Land, LLC owns the Quarry Property as stated in the DRRA, or whether Savage Stone, LLC owns not only the undisclosed mineral interests but also the land itself as shown in the MDE Application and Mining & Reclamation Plan Renewal.
As I previously stated in my written testimony and comments at the Work Session on April 29, 2019, Savage Stone, LLC and not Chase Land is identified as the surface land owner in the MDE permit renewal.
Either the MDE documents or the DRRA are in error regarding the ownership of the quarry property.
This core issue of ownership of the Quarry Property must be resolved before the DRRA is approved.
16.1703(a)(2) of the Howard County Code requires that the DRRA identify “the
names of the persons having a legal or equitable interest in the real property
subject to the agreement.” Paragraph 4 of the Recitals only identifies
Annapolis Junction Holdings, Chase Land, and Howard County as “the sole persons
having a legal or equitable interest” in the Petitioner Property.
In addition, it is unclear under what legal theory Howard County has an interest in the Petitioner Property. Its equitable interest as a contract purchaser of the parcels in the Water Tower Purchase and Sale Agreement is not fully explained in the DRRA. The property descriptions of the DRRA only make sense if the transfer of the water tower parcels close prior to the DRRA effective date, and the closing of the Water Tower Agreement is, in fact, a prerequisite for the closing of the School Site Agreement. In addition, the school site is adjoining and/or vicinal to the Petitioner Property, and not part of the DRRA.
The identification of only Annapolis Junction Holdings, Chase Land, and Howard County is an incomplete list of persons having a legal and/or equitable interest in the Petitioner Property. Howard County has undisclosed water and sewer easements and forest conservation easements. Of particular interest to those concerned about development on the Undeveloped Petitioner Property are the preservation easements held by the Howard County Conservancy. Savage Stone, LLC the operator of the quarry has a legal interest in the stone separate from the fee simple ownership of the quarry. Beneficiaries under deeds of trust may not have been disclosed. See Deed of Conservation Easement – Consent and Agreement of Trustees and Beneficiary Liber 9747 Folio 064. BGE and other utilities also have interests in the property which will be assumed but not discussed further herein.
In contrast to the lack of disclosure in the Chase DRRA, compare that of the Doughoregan/Carroll DRRA which included 176 pages of exhibits. See CR103-2010 Exhibit A Exhibits 1-10 FINAL. These exhibits included deeds, probate records and wills to show the title history of the property. Of particular importance here is “Exhibit 4 — Attorney title opinion certifying as to legal and equitable owners.”
As seen in the June 22, 2010 letter, the DRRA exhibit identified rights of way, easements including those to BGE, Maryland Historical Trust, and the Howard County Conservancy. The Chase DRRA has no such exhibits nor a list of easements. (As shown, the attorney title opinion was prepared by Talkin & Oh; it is unclear why Talkin & Oh failed to use this as a template for their work with the Chase DRRA).
The Preservation Easements
The Howard County Conservancy acquired easements to the property as part of the approval for the quarry in the Special Exception and the required development of the Ridgely’s Run Community Center. See Liber 9747 Folio 055, January 2006.
The Conservancy easements total approximately 45 acres of which about 32.8 acres are found in Parcel H which is included in the Undeveloped Petitioner Property but is not discussed in the DRRA.
The Howard County Conservancy easements are shown here on the County GIS map.
The Howard County Forest Conservation Easements are shown here.
Some of these easements are shown from F-09-071.
In the blowup, also note the sewer easement. See also Liber 1496 Folio 195.
The Howard County and Howard County Conservancy easements are shown together here.
Savage Stone, LLC
Because this is an active quarry mine, there are property ownership issues that would not occur with a regular DRRA for an undeveloped property. The legal and/or equitable interests of Savage Stone, LLC and possibly other related Gould family companies, including but not limited to, Laurel Sand and Gravel and Aggregate Management, Inc. have not been disclosed in the DRRA as required by the DRRA law.
The mine operator has legal rights separate from the fee simple owner of the property. In the most analogous case found, the Court of Special Appeals in interpreting the Maryland Dormant Mineral Interests Act stated:
“The Act defines a “mineral interest” as “an interest in a mineral estate, however created and regardless of form, whether absolute or fractional, divided or undivided, corporeal or incorporeal, including a fee simple or any lesser interest or any kind of royalty, production payment, executive right, nonexecutive right, leasehold, or lien in minerals, regardless of character.” Env. § 15-1201(c). From this, we conclude that a severed mineral interest constitutes a property right, and is, thus, a vested right.” Mary Harvey v. Joseph Sines 137 A.3d 1045, 228 Md. App. 283 (2016).
In the article below in discussing similar legislation in Ohio concluded: “A lease is merely an equitable interest in property that allows another to explore for minerals and develop those minerals if found.” Separating Mineral Interests from the Surface May Result in Two Real Property Tax Bills (emphasis added). Thus, Savage Stone appears to have property rights in the quarry separate from fee owner of the property.
The website for the quarry shows that Savage Stone, LLC is the operator.
However, the corporate parent of Savage Stone appears to be Aggregate Management, Inc.
Regarding the Ridgely’s Run Community Center development, Chase Land is the “owner” and Savage Stone is the “developer” for the storm water maintenance agreement.
Maryland Department of the Environment Lists Savage Stone not Chase Land as the Mine Operator
MDE shows that Savage Stone is the owner of the mining permit. It was originally issued to Chase Mining before its name change to Savage Stone.
The ownership of the quarry property is further complicated that the SDP for the school site has Savage Stone and not Chase Land as the owner.
The unclear ownership relationships are also demonstrated by the listing below on the Brownfield Master Inventory Report from July 2, 2018. It includes “Savage Stone,” “Chase,” and “Laurel Sand & Gravel, Inc.”
Further complications arise because of the current state of the MDE mining records. In a phone call with MDE on April 22, 2019, MDE staff stated that Savage Stone renewed its mining permit on January 17, 2019. The owner of the fee simple property and of the mine are both listed as Savage Stone. Chase Land does not appear in the current MDE records.
Chase Land, LLC is not now and appears never to have been the operator of the quarry. So when section 1.2 of the DRRA states that Chase Land will “operate” the quarry, this appears to be an inaccurate statement. The County has no relationship under the DRRA with the operator of the quarry. If the quarry companies were to be sold to third parties, they would be totally separate from Chase Land and the other Gould family companies. Howard County would perhaps have rights as a third party beneficiary of any lease between Chase Land and the mine operators, but not under the DRRA. So the ownership and corporate relationships of the various Gould family companies needs to be not only disclosed but clarified regarding the Quarry Property and the ownership of the quarry. In addition, it seems that perhaps Savage Stone should be added as a necessary party to the DRRA.
(The Howard County Solicitor has been made aware of many of these issues, but believes it is the responsibility of the Petitioner to disclose those entities with legal or equitable interests in the Property, and he finds the DRRA legally sufficient).