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Week in review: 8/31/12

Solo Cup project gets quick OK

After six months of bitter debate, the Baltimore County Council took just five minutes Tuesday to approve a zoning change for a former industrial site in Owings Mills to make way for a new shopping plaza. Before a packed chamber with 200 people for and against the rezoning of the Solo Cup factory site, the council voted 6-1 to allow Baltimore developer Greenberg Gibbons to build a 415,000-square-foot retail and office project — to be named Foundry Row — anchored by a Wegmans supermarket at Painters Mill and Reisterstown roads.

High court overturns 2006 murder conviction

Even though he did not try to stop the crime when he was out of immediate danger, a murder suspect was entitled to have a jury consider whether he was acting under duress, the Court of Appeals has held. The state’s highest court unanimously ordered a new trial for Nathanial P. McMillan, who was convicted of first-degree felony murder despite his argument that he was forced to open a neighbor’s door for two men who robbed, beat and killed the occupant. McMillan was sentenced in May 2006 to life with the possibility of parole for the felony murder of Herman Haiss, of Prince George’s County. McMillan has been in jail since his arrest in December 2005.

HUD, city near lawsuit settlement

In a move that could wrap up more than 17 years of legal wrangling over fair housing options in Baltimore, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the city housing department have filed a proposed settlement agreement of a class action by public housing residents. The proposed settlement agreement, entered last week, was submitted by attorneys on both sides of the case, Carmen Thompson v. HUD, in U.S. District Court in Baltimore. Among the conditions is the continuation of the Baltimore Housing Mobility Program, which voluntarily places public housing tenants throughout the city or the suburbs.

Former employee suspected of stealing $25K from MSBA

A former employee of the Maryland State Bar Association is suspected of taking more than $25,000 from the group’s affiliated charitable nonprofit corporation, an MSBA official confirmed. The unnamed MSBA employee had access to the account of the Maryland Bar Foundation, which raises funds and distributes grants to Maryland law organizations, said Paul V. Carlin, executive director of the MSBA. The suspected theft of bar foundation funds is being investigated by the Baltimore Police Department, Carlin said.

‘Woody’ Preston dies at age 90

Wilbur D. “Woody” Preston Jr., a founder of Whiteford, Taylor & Preston LLP and the Maryland Legal Aid Bureau’s Equal Justice Council, died Monday at age 90. A cause of death was not listed for Preston, who was also instrumental in investigating the savings and loan scandal in Maryland in the 1980s. Known for his commitment to Legal Aid and to making Whiteford into a pre-eminent regional firm, Preston was also remembered as a humorous, hard-working lawyer who had the respect of all who worked with him or worked across from him in court.

Penn National jumps into referendum battle

The operator of Maryland’s first casino said it is joining the referendum fight against the state’s expanded gambling law. Executives for Penn National Gaming Inc., the owner of Hollywood Casino Perryville and potential casino site Rosecroft Raceway in Fort Washington, wrote in an advertisement that Maryland’s gambling legislation was unfairly crafted and is not in Maryland’s best interest.

PATH power line killed

An effort to build a $2 billion regional power transmission line from West Virginia to Maryland has officially ended. The board of regional power grid planner PJM Interconnection formally removed the 765-kilovolt Potomac-Appalachian Transmission Highline from future plans, the Frederick News Post reported. PJM Interconnection’s staff recommended on Aug. 9 that the power line was no longer needed. The staff said a slow economy has reduced demand for electricity. More power generation also has become available. The project, known as PATH, was proposed in 2007 to meet expected growing demand for electricity in the 13-state region overseen by PJM.