Cecil County News

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Perryville’s Not-So-Quiet Title Farce

Perryville Town Hall
Perryville Town Hall (credit: perryvillemd.org)

Meet the Maggiores

Imagine after working hard finally being able to purchase your dream home. You sign the papers, write a check, put your name on the deed and start moving in. It’s heavenly, right? This is one of the single greatest joys a person can have in their life, to stand on land and sleep in a house that is theirs alone.

But for Charles and Amber Maggiore of Perryville, MD, that dream became a nightmare. The couple, for the sum of $275,000.00, bought a parcel of land to put down their roots and raise their five children from the estate of Mabel S. Williams-Whack, who passed away in 2014 at the age of 90. It’s a beautiful range of 51.62 acres located on Jackson Station Rd home to wetlands and waterways.

After signing the dotted line in May 2016, their problems began. One day, the Maggiores caught a suspicious man hunting near the old Mill Creek Reservoir, which stands on their property. This poacher claimed to have been given permission by the town to hunt on the land. Reasonably, Mr. Maggiore consulted Denise Breder, Perryville’s Town Administrator.

“Poacher said the town gave him permission to hunt by the reservoir,” Charles Maggiore told us, “I went into town to see Denise and she said to call the cops.”

Mr. Maggiore said that the next time it happened, the Department of Natural Resources got involved and advised him to put up No Trespassing signs. According to their maps, the reservoir was on his property and by the opinion of the state, belongs to him.

A 2013 Cecil Whig article by Jane Bellmyer claimed that the reservoir built by the Cole family in the 1930s was sold to Perryville for the use of the reservoir. The land it sat on was purportedly being leased to the town. More on that later.

 The Maggiore’s situation only worsened after this.

The Action to Quiet Title

 In March of 2016, the Town of Perryville had filed a quiet title action and the following July a judge ruled in their favor, allowing Perryville to effectively seize the 17.85-acre parcel of land where the reservoir stands as town property.

From Wikipedia: “An action to quiet title is a lawsuit brought in a court having jurisdiction over property disputes, in order to establish a party’s title to real property, or personal property having a title, of against anyone and everyone, and thus ‘quiet’ any challenges or claims to the title.”

In previous cases involving a quiet title, people using lands that are not theirs have made adverse possession claims followed by quiet title actions and been able to take ownership of that land by court authority. Various news websites have described this as a means to legally steal real estate.

In order for the action to work, the squatter for an amount of time that varies state-to-state has to be openly living on or using the property without permission and paying taxes or other expenses associated with maintaining the property before they can make the case. It’s similar to a common law marriage, where after cohabitating for an established period of time an unmarried man and woman are considered legally married.

A municipality (the Town of Perryville) arguably cannot squat on private property, nor can they pay taxes and fees to themselves for it. Even if they argue that they own the Mill Creek Reservoir which has been on the land since the 1930s, that is a very flimsy predicate, as for decades the reservoir and land have not been in use by the town.

It’s also worth noting that the defendant listed in the court records for the quiet title action is Gertrude C. Cole of South Carolina, not Mabel S. Williams-Whack or the representatives of her estate, Dwight James and Thomas Short III, or even Charles and Amber Maggiore who were sold the property and all its contents before the ruling was made. According to the deed for the property, William Cole Jr. and his wife Sarah sold the parcel of land to Collins Williams in 1926.

Maryland Code Real Property Title 14 – Miscellaneous Rules subtitle 6 – Actions to Quiet Title states in subsection 14-610: “Notification of personal representative. If a person required to be named as a defendant is dead and the plaintiff knows of a personal representative, the plaintiff shall join the personal representative as a defendant.”

In a similar case, Estate of Zimmerman vs Blatter, the additions to Subtitle 6 signed in by Governor Larry Hogan in 2016 applied retroactively and following an appeal, the judgment in the Zimmerman case was vacated and the case was dismissed. This sets a legal precedent for any future cases with the same circumstances.

As we pointed out before, in the action to quiet title and settle ownership of the 17.85-acres, Perryville town attorney Fred Sussman did not name Thomas Short III or Dwight James, the representatives of Mabel S. Williams-Whack as defendants in his action to quiet title. Which, by the precedent we’ve explained, means the court’s ruling that the 17.85-acre parcel belongs to Perryville should too be vacated. But to this day, they still claim the town owns the land around the reservoir.

In our investigations, we have found that there are no records in the Cecil County circuit court of that land ever being allocated to the town of Perryville prior to the quiet title action, either ownership or lease. The County Clerk was unable to locate any relative information.

Not only that, the Town of Perryville submitted the wrong deed for their case. The document given belongs to a property at Old Post Road in Perry Point that was owned by John Stump in the 1800s. This location is miles away from the disputed land.

And that would be checkmate, I think. It is hard to believe that this farce ever held up in a court of law. The Court should review their ruling and with the evidence in mind, vacate it and dismiss the case according to legal precedent.

The quiet title action is not the only suspicious misfortune the family has suffered since moving in.

The Fire, the Liens and the Land Developers

In November 2016, the Maggiore’s home caught fire. Investigators suspected arson and according to Mr. Maggiore, inspectors came out twice while he wasn’t home and logged it without notifying him. Evidence pointed to the fire being started from outside the house and Maggiore believes the case is still open and unsolved.

No one was hurt, thank God, but for a time the house was unlivable, and the family had to be away from the property, and Mr. Maggiore says they never received anything in the mail from the town about any matter, except for warnings Ms. Breder and town attorney Fred Sussman issued for them to stay off the property and not to hang signs or paint the trees.

Tax liens were then placed on their property, ostensibly to satisfy unpaid taxes and charges due the county in the amount of $919.12. The property was sold at an auction for $170,000.00 to Thornton Mellon LLC, who would foreclose the property after six months if the Maggiores did not pay the money.

After fighting the sale and highlighting errors made by the town, the Maggiores successfully reclaimed their property. But the Town of Perryville still claims ownership of that 17.85-acre parcel of land around Mill Creek Reservoir via their shady quiet title action.

The question you’re likely pondering is: why does Perryville care so much about an 80-year-old defunct reservoir and the land surrounding it?  

In March 2016 (the same month the Quiet Title action was filed,) Jane Bellmyer reported in the Cecil Whig that the Town of Perryville was given a draft plan for a stream restoration project that would fix flooding issues around the reservoir and help the town. The specifics are unclear as the representatives of TLBT, LLC whose organizations devised the draft plan were under a DNR, as was Lisa Webb, the director of Cecil County’s Department of Economic Development.

That fall, Bellmyer reported in her Whig news column that the town of Perryville wanted to scrap the reservoir and sell the property. She also mentioned that the stream restoration project was being carried out by Lidl, which recently opened its new distribution center in the county. Following this information, it would be safe to conclude that Lidl would be the purchaser, or perhaps another company working in tandem with them.

The area around it has a lot going on recently. Contrary to the Whig’s claim of stream restoration, the logging and digging taking place adjacent to the Maggiore’s property have been damaging the wetlands and waterways. The MDTA notified the family of this effect along with their intention of applying to the Maryland Department of the Environment to obtain authorization.

There are also improvements to the I-95 exit sought by the Maryland Transportation Authority, likely due to the Great Wolf Lodge going up next to Hollywood Casino. Being nestled between I-95 and Route 40, the land is also in the path of the County’s Master Water and Sewer Plan. York Builders (Stewart Properties) is involved with many of these enterprises.

In another letter, MDTA requested permission to enter the Maggiore’s property to perform a field survey. Mr. Maggiore has expressed contempt for the damage these projects are doing to his property and its value.

It would seem that the only crime Charles and Amber Maggiore committed was choosing a home for their family that lay in the path of the town and developers looking to turn the area around the I-95 exit into a tourist hub. The lack of concern for the local nature and the value of Maggiore’s property is sad.

3 thoughts on “Perryville’s Not-So-Quiet Title Farce

  1. This sounds very sly, sneaky and dishonest of the Town of Perryville. If any of the town employees who are involved in this “farce”, put themselves in the owner’s shoes, they would also be fighting this, and would feel violated. Perryville administration, be transparent and forthright with your community! Currently it sounds like you can’t be trusted.

  2. This sounds extremely greedy and self serving on the town of Perryville’s part. That family bought that land fair and square and it’s a real shame that it seems as though “someone” tried to burn their house down and they’re treating these poor people as if they don’t matter. Guess we won’t be buying property in this town EVER

  3. Very disappointed in our courts and law systems. This should not be happening. My brother and sister in law should have one concern and that is raising their happy children in the home they purchased. The stress and aggravation they have gone through makes me feel someone owes them! You want to steal for your benefit and disrupt peoples lives….oh but that’s ok because the courts can do what they want. How about leave their land alone and go after real criminals and focus on finding deadbeats who actually cause trouble and heartache.

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