- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 2, 2001

The Catholic University of America filed a federal lawsuit yesterday to stop the manager of a veterans home from developing land the school wants to buy.
The university is seeking a restraining order against the Armed Forces Retirement Home, an independent federal agency that manages the U.S. Soldiers' and Airmen's Retirement Home near the university.
The agency wants to partner with a builder to develop a 49-acre parcel that borders the school's campus and the retirement home property. The parcel was appraised for $12 million in 1997.
The agency has invited builders to submit development plans for the property.
According to the school, the request for proposals allows builders to submit plans for commercial or residential development. The retirement home wants a 30 percent cut of the profits from any development project, according to the proposal.
"We feel [the retirement home] has violated an act of Congress," said Chip Glasgow, an attorney for the school. The suit, filed late yesterday afternoon in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, wants the court to stop the retirement home from accepting development proposals.
Congress in 1999 gave the retirement home permission to sell the 49 acres to stave off bankruptcy. The legislation also gave the university the right to match the highest bid for the property.
When the university learned the land would be sold, it offered to buy it for fair market value.
Mr. Glasgow said the legislation gave the retirement home until October 2000 to sell the land. But it did not issue its invitation to builders until December, he said.
The deadline to respond to the request for proposals is May 7, he said.
"It's a better situation to file now rather than wait for the bids to be submitted," he said.
Jean Schaefer, a spokeswoman for the veterans' home, told the Associated Press the land is not for sale, but for lease. And she said the retirement home has not ruled out leasing the property to Catholic University.
"Catholic University has the right under the law to match the highest and best offer," she said. "They're not out of the game."
Mr. Glasgow said the school wants to build dorm rooms and a biotechnology center on the property.
"This is the only place the university can go to expand," he said.
The university's president, the Rev. David M. O'Connell, said in a statement the school had hoped to avoid legal action against its neighbor.
"We have tried to work with the home for years to resolve the sale of this land. We regret having to go to court, but we couldn't find another option," he said.


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