The Johns Hopkins University today released the following statement on its motion for summary judgment in litigation pending in Montgomery County, Md., Circuit Court regarding development of the Johns Hopkins Belward Research Campus.
Johns Hopkins on Sept. 24 filed a motion for summary judgment in the university’s favor. We believe that the evidence that emerged during discovery makes the correct outcome of this case absolutely clear. A trial is not necessary.
We make two essential points in the motion:
First: The contract is the only fact before the judge that matters. It represents the unambiguous agreement between the university and the Belward sellers. It – and it alone – should decide the issues in this case. The key 18-word phrase in the contract restricts the kinds of activity that can take place on the property for 50 years. Johns Hopkins has abided by and will continue to abide by that restriction. Any development will be limited to “agricultural, academic, research and development, delivery of health and medical care and services, or related purposes only.”
The phrase does not, however, restrict the density of development, the height of buildings, or the university’s right to lease to non-Johns Hopkins tenants.
Both sides were represented by lawyers in negotiations over the sale. Neither side achieved everything it wanted. But both the university and the Banks family got substantial benefits. And both sides agreed to the contract.
Second: Even if the court does not agree that the contract itself is unambiguous, the evidence beyond the contract – evidence produced during discovery – contradicts the plaintiffs’ assertion that Johns Hopkins is restricted in any way by agreements beyond the contract language.
That evidence shows that Johns Hopkins intended that Belward be a research center, not an education site, and was clear about it. The evidence also shows that Miss Banks knew that. She attended a county council zoning hearing in 1990. At that hearing, she testified in support of a Johns Hopkins plan that included corporate and institutional R&D facilities, corporate and government tenants, and related amenities.
The university’s plan for the Belward Campus is absolutely consistent with its obligations under the contract. It is consistent with Montgomery County’s vision for the economic development of the surrounding area and the county as a whole. And, partially in response to public input, the university has included in the plan more publicly accessible green space and the preservation of more of the historic farm.
Johns Hopkins has lived up to – and intends to live up to – its obligations to the Banks family and to the people of Montgomery County.