Annapolis City Council files stop work order after developer threatens to sue – Baltimore Sun
A developer of luxury townhouses threatened to sue members of the Annapolis City Council on Monday, prompting local lawmakers to postpone appealing a stop-work order for his project.
City Attorney Michael Lyles said Bando Investment Group representatives emailed council members ahead of Monday night’s meeting. The emails warned of possible legal action if council voted to pass a prepared resolution that instructed city workers to issue the stop work order for a 23-acre, 48-unit community.
Alderman Sheila Finlayson, whose Ward 4 includes the new development, both sponsored the resolution and called for it to be tabled. It can be postponed for up to 90 days, Lyles said.
In question, various questionable classification and construction permits which were issued in 2006 to various promoters and which may no longer be valid, according to the resolution.
Finlayson said she brought the motion to postpone the order because the city is ‘still working on solutions’ for the project, which has troubled council members since June when bulldozers suddenly appeared on the vacant lot. along Aris T. Allen Boulevard near the intersection of Chinquapin Round Road. Athens, as the development is now called, presents a number of problems for the city, particularly its current access point on Yawl Road: a narrow, car-lined roadway through the working-class townhouse community of Athens. ‘Oxford Landing would lead to a new gated community of million dollar homes.
At a meeting in August, Nelson Epega, CEO of Bando Investment Group (also known as BIG Limited), made three verbal commitments that calmed board members: Epega said he would ask the State Highway Administration to request a traffic light access point. on Aris T. Allen, as well as holding an informational meeting with area residents. He also promised that Athens would not be closed whether the entrance was off Yawl Road or Aris T. Allen.
More than two months later, representations of Athens as a gated community remain online, there has been no meeting, and the State Highway Administration could not confirm that Bando submitted an access request. .
“We play ball with these guys,” Epega said in an interview on Monday. He also reiterated his claim to take legal action if the council seeks to halt construction. “We are going to file a complaint. 100%,” Epega said. “We have valid permits.”
But many of those permits are over 15 years old, at least one was canceled in 2020, and, as the tabled resolution points out, many state and city policies regarding affordable housing, forest conservation, traffic and wastewater management have changed. The tornado that passed through Annapolis in September 2021 also changed the property. According to the resolution, many of these changes could require BIG to reapply for a building permit.
The developer disagrees. “We didn’t do anything wrong,” Epega said.
Alderman Rob Savidge of Ward 7 and Alderman Ross Arnett of Ward 8 emailed voters saying they supported efforts to stop the project. But for now, council members — all of whom are Democrats — seem poised to back down.
The acreage in question has a long history of development stops and starts, as well as ties to Maryland Governor Hogan’s attorney. Previous site plans called the site, Rocky Gorge, and as recently as 2020 plans were underway for Silver Spring-based Foulger-Pratt to build an affordable housing community on the site.
Earlier this year, Bando bought the property for $4 million. The deal was brokered by longtime Hogan associate Michael Sponseller on behalf of a limited liability company set up by Hogan Companies, founded by the governor. This news was reported by Howard/Arundel Report, a bi-weekly Maryland real estate newsletter. Since 2015, the Governor’s business interests have been managed by a trust.
The Hogan Companies never planned to build on the property, Epega said. The plan was to make sure all the permits were in place and then sell it to a developer.
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Reached on Tuesday, Sponseller declined to comment on the sale and referred questions to Epega and the city council. “You can take whatever you want out of this report,” he said.
The State Highway Administration once denied a previous developer access to Aris T. Allen, but reversed course in a later decision once Hogan was in office. Construction vehicles currently access the site from the boulevard. To make the road permanent, Bando will need approval from the state and Annapolis planning commission.
The developer said contractors were “ready to go vertical” in Annapolis, however, no foundation was dug at the property on Tuesday. Most of the work done so far appears to be tree felling, grading and storm water management.
Epega described home sales in Athens, which start at $650,000, as “active”, although he declined to share details. In a press release, he pegged Athens’ total value at $48 million.
Originally from Nigeria, Epega presents himself as a young developer and his wife as a designer who has created interior plans for Athens. His backers as “like-minded real estate investors” whom he has mostly “met through social media connections”, including listeners to his show “The Million Marathon” on the platform of Clubhouse social networks. Epega’s Instagram feed, @nelsonepegaofficial, features travel videos from Florida, Mexico, the Maldives and Singapore, as well as real estate updates.
For example, a September video montage set to “Living My Best Life” includes golf in Cancun as well as the claim that Sunshine in Bowie, Bando’s planned 21-home gated community for Prince Georges County, is ” sold at 50″. This agreement was also brokered by Sponseller.
Bando is also a partner in a larger project in Buford, Georgia, and has built a handful of homes in Pikesville. Athens, according to the development’s website, will be “the most thoughtful and innovative home design ever offered in Annapolis.”