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The sale of the synagogue will mark the end of the Beth Torah congregation in Hyattsville, according to its attorney. (The Daily Record/Danny Jacobs)

Suit and sale close, followed by synagogue

M-NCPPC, developer come to terms on ’66 deed restrictions

ROCKVILLE — Call it a win-win-win.

A Hyattsville synagogue finally has sold its property to the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission after the commission made a deal with the developer that previously owned the land.

With the deals in place, Beth Torah Congregation can move out of the property, which the commission has said will become a multigenerational community center.

The deals also allowed Beth Torah to dismiss its declaratory judgment action against the commission and Prince George’s Metro Center Inc., in which Beth Torah sought to have covenants and restrictions on its 48-year-old deed declared null and void.

“As long as Park and Planning felt they could live with what Prince George’s Metro was offering, that was fine with us,” said Scott C. Speier, a lawyer for the congregation.

Beth Torah purchased the property from a corporate entity controlled by Herschel and Marvin Blumberg, brothers who bought 140 acres of farmland near the University of Maryland in the 1950s with plans to create a mixed-use development. Prince George’s Metro Center is a successor to the Blumbergs’ corporate entity

The synagogue’s deed stated that Beth Torah, as purchaser, “specifically agrees that it will not oppose any zoning requests made by the seller” and that Beth Torah “will execute any waiver necessary to permit the location of a liquor license on ground adjoining the tract.”

Speier, a Rockville solo practitioner, has said no developer has asked for any such waivers or zoning requests since the deed was signed in 1966.

The restrictions became an issue soon after Beth Torah entered a contract two years ago to sell its 1.1 acres to the planning commission, which, according to court filings, could not agree to the terms.

So the synagogue filed the declaratory judgment in Montgomery County Circuit Court, contending all of the covenants and restrictions were no longer in effect because they were “personal in nature, have expired, have been waived or abandoned, have become moot or no longer serve any legitimate purpose.”

A lawyer for Prince George’s Metro said the company supported Beth Torah in its efforts to sell the property, but intervened in the case to preserve development rights.

Matthew D. Osnos said Friday said negotiations between Prince George’s Metro and the commission resumed after a court hearing on the declaratory judgment in February. Under terms of the agreement, the commission will be allowed to oppose any zoning requests made by the developer, according to Osnos, who said his client does not anticipate pursuing one.

The deal also allows Prince George’s Metro to pursue a liquor license, added Osnos, of a principal with O’Malley, Miles, Nylen & Gilmore P.A. in Calverton.

“We’ve got our developments, more or less the ones we wanted to have, preserved,” he said of the agreement.

R. Julio Aleman, associate general counsel for the planning commission, said in March a “multigenerational community center” would be built on the synagogue grounds. The planning commission also owns an acre south of the synagogue, which is now home to the Prince George’s Plaza Community Center.

Aleman did not respond to a request for comment Friday.

Terms of the sale of Beth Torah’s property to the planning commission are confidential, Speier said Friday. The property, in the 6000 block of Adelphi Road, is assessed at $937,200, according to state tax records.

For Beth Torah, the sale marks the end of the synagogue, according to Speier. Its aging congregation has fewer than 50 members and even fewer regular participants in services, he said. Members might stay together and move to another congregation, he said, but they will not be forming their own.

Proceeds from the sale most likely will go to Jewish charities, he added.

“The anticipation is, everyone is going to get together and make pitches for their favorite causes,” Speier said.