Articles Posted in Zoning, Planning & Land Use

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In 1993, the Anne Arundel county board of appeals (Board) granted Petitioner special exceptions and variances to construct and landfill and sand and gravel operations. Three extensions of time were necessary to obtain that permit. In 2011, the permit and a county building permit to construct the landfill were granted. That same year, the Board, by a vote of 2-2, denied Petitioner’s request for a further two-year extension. The circuit court vacated the Board’s decision and remanded. The court of special appeals modified the decision of the circuit court, disagreeing on the standard the Board was to apply. The Court of Appeals vacated the rulings of the lower courts with instructions to remand to the Board for further proceedings, holding that the ultimate conclusions of the denying members were arbitrary and capricious, but that did not require an outright reversal of the Board’s rejection. View "National Waste Managers, Inc. v. Forks of the Patuxent Improvement Ass’n" on Justia Law

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Baltimore County zoning regulations provide for a planned unit development (PUD) approval process that is partly legislative and partly quasi-judicial or adjudicative. Whalen Properties, LLC, the developer of a proposed PUD, submitted a PUD application to First District Councilman Thomas Quirk of Baltimore County. Thereafter, Stephen Whalen, the owner and principal of Whalen Properties, distributed $8,500 of the company’s money to several individuals with instructions that they deposit the sums into their own accounts and to donate those amounts to Councilman Quirk’s campaign committee. An adjacent landowner challenged the subsequent approval of the PUD, alleging that the appearance of impropriety generated by the donations invalidated the approval process. The circuit court and Court of Special Appeals affirmed the decision. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) because the introduction and passage of a resolution is a legislative action, the legislative intent is subject to limited judicial review; and (2) an alleged appearance of impropriety generated by illegal campaign contributions does not negate the presumption of validity of the legislative act. View "Kenwood Gardens Condos., Inc. v. Whalen Props., LLC" on Justia Law

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The Maryland Critical Area law establishes a cooperative program with local jurisdictions to ensure that land near Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic coastal bays has special protection against development that might cause environmental damage. Although the law allows a property owner to seek a variance, it places the burden of proof on the applicant to demonstrate that the applicant would suffer an “unwarranted hardship” without the variance and that granting the variance will not have an adverse environmental impact. Schwalbach sought a variance from a Worcester County ordinance that limits piers to 100 feet in length, in order to access navigable water from his waterfront property in a community where piers and boating are common. Schwalbach obtained necessary federal, state, and local environmental agency approvals. The County Board of Zoning Appeals granted the variance. The Circuit Court, the Court of Special Appeals, and the Maryland Court of Appeals upheld the approval.Schwalbach was not required to show that he would be denied all reasonable and significant use of his land without the variance, but rather that he would be denied a reasonable and significant use throughout the entire property. There was sufficient evidence to conclude that Schwalbach satisfied that standard and the standard that there be no adverse environmental impact from granting the variance. View "Assateague Coastal Trust v. Schwalbach" on Justia Law

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A Guy Named Moe, LLC (Moe), a foreign limited liability company doing business in Maryland, and Chipotle Mexican Grill of Colorado, LLC both operate a chain of restaurants. In 2012, Chipotle applied for a special exception to build a restaurant approximately 425 feet from Moe’s Southwest Grill. The City of Annapolis’s Board of Appeals unanimously approved Chipotle’s request. Thereafter, Moe filed a petition for judicial review. The circuit court dismissed Moe’s petition, finding that Moe lacked standing because it was not a taxpayer under Md. Code Ann. Land Use 4-401(a). The Court of Special Appeals affirmed, holding (1) the petition was void ab initio because, at the time it was filed, Moe’s had lost its right to do business in Maryland because of its failure to register; and (2) Moe was not "a person aggrieved" for standing purposes. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) Moe can Maintain its suit; but (2) Moe was not aggrieved for standing purposes. View "Guy Named Moe, LLC v. Chipotle Mexican Grill of Colorado, LLC" on Justia Law

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Zimmer Development Company wished to construct on a parcel of property in Prince George’s County a small retail center and filed a proposed Comprehensive Design Plan (CDP) and Specific Design Plan (SDP) for the development of the property. The Planning Board approved the CDP and SDP subject to conditions. The District Council elected to review the approval and remanded the CDP and SDP to the Planning Board to consider specific areas of concern. On remand, the Planning Board again approved the CDP and SDP. The District Council elected again to review the Board’s revised decision and, after oral arguments, denied the CDP and SDP. The circuit court reversed and remanded to the District Council with directions to approve the CDP and SDP as approved by the Planning Board. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) the District council was authorized to reverse the Planning Board’s decision regarding the CDP and SDP only if it was not supported by substantial evidence, was arbitrary, capricious, or illegal otherwise; (2) the District Council’s ultimate consideration of the Planning Board’s approvals was limited to the issues remanded to the Planning Board; and (3) the circuit court’s order reversing the decision of the District Council denying the CPD and SDP was appropriate. View "County Council of Prince George's County v. Zimmer Dev. Co." on Justia Law

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These proceedings involved a development project spearheaded by K. Hovnanian’s Four Seasons at Kent Island, LLC (Appellee). Appellee obtained all of the necessary permits and approvals from state and local agencies, except one. At issue in these proceedings was Appellee’s application for a State wetlands license. Appellee filed a complaint for declaratory and injunctive relief and for a writ of mandamus against the Board of Public Works seeking an order compelling the Board to vote promptly on Appellee’s long-outstanding application for the wetlands permit following delays resulting from a perceived appearance of impropriety. The circuit court granted the requested relief and ordered the Board to vote promptly on the application. The Court of Appeals vacated the judgment, holding that the circuit court’s order was improper for want of a prior final administrative decision and because mandamus was unavailable under the circumstances. View "Bd. of Pub. Works v. K. Hovnanian's Four Seasons at Kent Island, LLC" on Justia Law

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In this companion case to Anne Arundel County v. Bell, Respondents challenged the adoption by the County Council for Anne Arundel County of a comprehensive zoning ordinance for a large portion of the County, but a different portion of the County than was involved in Bell. In Bell, the Court of Appeals held that the doctrine of property owner standing is not the appropriate test for a judicial challenge to a comprehensive zoning action, but rather, plaintiffs wishing to challenge a legislative action adopting a comprehensive zoning are required to demonstrate taxpayer standing. The plaintiffs in this case (“Respondents”), several non-profit community associations and individual property owners, filed suit challenging the ordinance. The circuit court dismissed the two complaints filed by Respondents, concluding that Respondents lacked standing. The Court of Special Appeals reversed, concluding that property owner standing principles apply to a judicial challenge to comprehensive zoning legislation, and Respondents satisfied those principles. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding (1) the holding in Bell answered the first two questions presented in this appeal; and (2) Respondents in this case did not sufficiently allege a basis for their standing to challenge the adoption of the ordinance. View "Anne Arundel County v. Harwood Civic Ass'n" on Justia Law

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In 2011, the County Council for Anne Arundel County adopted a comprehensive zoning ordinance for a large portion of the County. County property owners and community associations (“Respondents”) filed suit challenging the rezoning of multiple parcels of land. Several County property owners and ground leaseholders whose properties had been rezoned to desired classifications (collectively, with the County, “Petitioners”) intervened. Petitioners moved to dismiss Respondents’ suit, claiming that Respondents lacked standing. The circuit court granted the motion to dismiss, determining that Respondents lacked standing because they failed to meet their burden of proving special aggrievement. The Court of Special Appeals vacated the judgment of the circuit court and remanded, concluding that property owner standing principles apply to a judicial challenge to comprehensive zoning legislation, and Respondents satisfied those principles. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding (1) plaintiffs wishing to challenge a legislative action adopting a comprehensive zoning are required to demonstrate taxpayer standing; and (2) Respondents in this case did not allege facts sufficient to meet the correct standing requirement. View "Anne Arundel County v. Bell" on Justia Law

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In 2000, DCW Dutchship Island, LLC (DCW), a corporation wholly owned by Daryl Wagner, purchased the Little Island in the Magothy River. At that time, the Island measured approximately 1.92 acres in area and was improved by a single-family house and related structures built in the 1920s. Wagner demolished the house and built a new one. In November 2004, the County authorities discovered the construction activities on the Island and notified DCW of numerous violations. In December, DCW sought variances from the unobserved requirements of the Critical Area Law for each of the structures and improvements on the Island. DCW sought also an amendment to the critical area buffer map, which prohibited most development activity within 100 feet of the shoreline. A County Administrative Hearing Officer heard the evidence for and against the requests for variances. The Magothy River Association (MRA) appeared at the variance hearings to oppose DCW’s requests. The Hearing Officer granted some of the variances. Wagner administratively appealed the denials, and the MRA, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF), and the Maryland Critical Area Commission for the Chesapeake and Atlantic Coastal Bays appealed the decision to grant the variances, all to the County Board of Appeals. At the Anne Arundel County Board of Appeals (the “Board”) hearing, Wagner moved to dismiss MRA and CBF as parties to the administrative proceedings. The Board ultimately concluded that CBF did not have standing to appeal the granted variances because it did not participate in the hearing before the Administrative Hearing Officer (“AHO”). After 24 evenings of hearings on the subject, the Board revised the decision of the AHO to include certain conditions on the variances.The Maryland Critical Area Commission for the Chesapeake and Atlantic Coastal Bays (the Commission), MRA, CBF, and Wagner all sought judicial review of the Board’s decision at the Circuit Court. In addition, CBF filed a Motion for Summary Judgment limited to the issue of whether the Board improperly excluded CBF from the variance portion of the proceedings. The court denied all motions relevant to the variance matter. The Circuit Court then affirmed the decision of the Board. The Commission and CBF appealed the Circuit Court’s decision to the Court of Special Appeals, arguing that the Critical Area Act applied to the variance proceedings, that the Board erred in refusing to allow CBF to participate as a party in the administrative process, and that the Board did not base its decision on substantial evidence in the record. In an unreported opinion, the Court of Special Appeals rejected these arguments and affirmed the Circuit Court. MRA and CBF then petitioned the Court of Appeals for certiorari. The issues this case presented for the Court's review were: (1) whether CBF had standing to participate in the variance proceedings before the Board of Appeals on the grounds that MRA, which advocated the same position, had standing; (2) whether AACC 3-1-104(a) violated the Express Powers Act, thus making the Board’s denial of standing to CBF on the basis of it erroneous; (3) whether the Board of Appeals violated its own rules when it held that CBF could not cross-examine witnesses, resulting in CBF being denied due process; and (4) whether the Board of Appeals erred in granting Wagner after-the-fact variances. The Court answered the first three questions in the negative and the fourth in the affirmative, but only in part. View "Chesapeake Bay Found. v. DCW Dutchship" on Justia Law

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This case concerned a dispute over the paving of a parking lot located on park land leased to a restaurant. A formal agreement between the restaurant and a community organization restricted the paving of the property, and the restriction was incorporated in administrative zoning orders. Still, the lot was paved. Baltimore County was, in this case, landlord of the property, code enforcer, and final administrative adjudicator of disputes arising under local land use laws. As administrative adjudicator, the County forbade the paving. As landlord, the County directed its tenant, Oregon, LLC, to pave the lot. As code enforcer, it refrained from taking action in response to the apparent violation of a final administrative order issued by the Board of Appeals. Plaintiffs brought suit against the County and Oregon seeking declaratory and mandamus relief. The circuit court ruled against Plaintiffs. The court of special appeals affirmed, concluding that Plaintiffs had failed to exhaust administrative remedies. The Court of Appeals largely affirmed, albeit on different grounds, holding (1) Plaintiffs need not initiate an administrative proceeding to pursue enforcement of the Board’s orders; (2) the circuit court properly granted summary judgment with respect to the mandamus counts of the complaint; and (3) the circuit court has authority to issue a declaratory judgment as to whether the Board’s orders were violated. Remanded. View "Falls Road Cmty. Ass’n, Inc. v. Baltimore County" on Justia Law