Tenants at the Parkside Plaza highrise apartment building in Silver Spring have filed a law suit charging the Artery Organizations with "conspiratorial interference" with their efforts to buy the 249-unit building. The tenants are asking for $12 million in compensatory and punitive damages.

Artery, which plans a condominium conversion of the building at 9039 Sligo Creek Pkwy., recently bought it for about $9 million from a group that included the developer, Edward Perkins.

The tenants allege that they offered to buy the building in November, using the first-refusal rights then accorded them under Montogomery County law, but that Artery "took actions to interfere with and cause breach of contract of sale between the tenants association and the sellers."

Artery president Henry Goldberg called the allegations "ridiculous," saying the tenant offer was not accompanied by a financial binder. Additionally, he said that, in the interim, the section of county law giving tenants the right to purchase was declared invalid in a court review by the Maryland Court of Appeals.

However the Montgomery County Council on Tuesday passed another bill -- similar to the legislation referred to by Goldberg -- giving tenant groups or government agencies right of first refusal when rental apartment buildings go up for sale to condominium developers.

The tenant association said that members representing more than 200 of the Parkside Plaza apartments have boycotted meetings called by Artery to promote the sale of apartments.