Articles Posted in Zoning, Planning & Land Use

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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

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Petitioners filed a petition for judicial review of the Baltimore City Council's approval of a planned unit development (PUD) with a Wal-Mart supercenter. Both Petitioners' residences were approximately 0.4 miles away from the PUD. The Mayor and City Council of the City, the owners of the property, and the developers of the PUD (Respondents) filed motions to dismiss, alleging that Petitioners lacked standing to challenge the PUD. The circuit court granted Respondents' motions and dismissed Petitioners' petition for review. The court of special appeals affirmed, concluding that Petitioners did not qualify for prima facie aggrieved status and that they had failed to show any special aggrievement different from the general public. The Supreme Court granted certiorari and held that the circuit court did not err in its judgment, as Petitioners failed to allege specific facts that they had been specially aggrieved in a manner different than the public generally. View "Ray v. Baltimore" on Justia Law

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Petitioner, an LLC, sought an exception from the Charles County Zoning Regulation to build an office building, gun range, and driving track on a parcel of land in a rural community in the County. The property was subject to zoning restrictions prohibiting such activity except as authorized through a special exception. In deciding Petitioner's application, the Board conducted one trip to the property in question. The Board allowed representatives from the LLC as well as two citizens to attend but prohibited any other members of the public from attending and kept no transcript or other record of that which transpired. The Board then granted Petitioner's application. Various individuals filed a petition for judicial review. The circuit court affirmed. The court of special appeals reversed, holding that the Board improperly conducted the visit to the property in a manner that was closed to the public. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the site visit constituted a "meeting", which was required to be open to the public; and (2) because the Board violated the open meeting provisions of the Maryland Code, the Charles County Code, and its own Rules of Procedure, the matter should be remanded for a new hearing. View "WSG Holdings, LLC v. Bowie" on Justia Law

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This was the latest in a series of opinions by the Court of Appeals involving the constitutional provision and the implementing legislation authorizing a limited number of slot machines at specified Maryland facilities, including facilities in the area of Anne Arundel County (County). A County zoning ordinance authorized slot machines in certain areas of the County. The circuit court determined that the ordinance was not subject to referendum under the County charter. On appeal, the Court of Appeals (1) held the circuit court's judgment was appealable, as (i) the Legislature no no intention of applying the non-appealability principle of Md. Code Ann. Cts. & Jud. Proc. 12-302(a) to cases under the Election Article, and (ii) where the Election Article authorizes judicial review but is silent regarding an appeal, Md. Code Ann. Cts. & Jud. Proc.12-301 authorizes an appeal; and (2) reversed the circuit court's judgment and remanded with instructions to order that the ordinance be placed on the ballot at the general election in accordance with the referendum provisions of the County charter, holding that the ordinance was simply a local ordinance re-zoning an area, and as such, it was not exempt from a referendum. View "Citizens Against Slots At The Mall v. PPE Casino Resorts Md., LLC" on Justia Law

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This case involved a long-standing dispute between Appellants, the Tomes Landing Condominium Association and MRA Property Management, and Appellees, twenty-five condominium unit purchasers. The unit purchasers were granted partial summary judgment in the amount of one million dollars against MRA and the Association on the ground that the operating budget that MRA and the Association supplied as part of a "resale package" provided to the unit purchasers violated the Maryland Consumer Protection Act (Act) because the budgets had the effect of misleading the unit purchasers in connection with their purchases of the condominiums. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that the etnry of summary judgment was inappropriate, as (1) the Act could apply to disclosures made in a resale certificate by a condominium association and its management company during the sale of a condominium; and (2) there existed a dispute of material facts as to whether the operating budgets provided by MRA and the Association to the unit purchasers constituted unfair or deceptive trade practices under the Act. View "MRA Prop. Mgmt., Inc. v. Armstrong" on Justia Law

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In 1999, the Baltimore City Council enacted an urban renewal plan (Plan) to renew a portion of Baltimore City. A five-block area located in the renewal area was the subject of protracted litigation between 120 West Fayette, LLLP and the Mayor and City Council of Baltimore. The current iteration of the litigation focused on a memorandum of agreement (MOA) between the City and the Maryland Historical Trust relating to the treatment of historic properties in connection with the Plan. The MOA required the City to submit redevelopment plans to the Trust for approval. After the Trust's director provided conditional approval of a fifth set of plans 120 West Fayette (Appellant) filed a complaint seeking a declaration of rights interpreting the terms of the MOA. The circuit court dismissed the complaint, finding that Appellant was neither a party to, nor an intended beneficiary of, the MOA, and therefore, Appellant failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that Appellant, at best an incidental beneficiary to the MOA, could not file a suit requesting declaratory judgment that interprets and enforces an agreement to which it had no part. View "120 W. Fayette St., LLLP v. Mayor & City Council of Baltimore" on Justia Law

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In 1991, the predecessor in title to the disputed property at issue in this case to Petitioner, HNS Development, and Baltimore County failed to resolve conclusively whether certain development restrictions would be placed on parcels including and adjacent to a historic building. HNS purchased the two parcels in 2004 with knowledge of a cautionary note on the 1991 development plan. After having its proposed amended development plan rejected by three county agencies, the circuit court, and the court of special appeals, HNS asked the Court of Appeals to conclude that its amended development plan met the applicable development regulations of the Baltimore County Code and ignore the conceded Baltimore County Master Plan conflict. Respondents, People's Counsel for Baltimore County and the Greater Kingsville Community Association, argued that the Master Plan conflict provided a stand-alone basis for the County to reject the proposed amended development plan. The Court of Appeals agreed with Respondents and affirmed the judgment of the court of special appeals. View "HNS Dev., LLC v. People's Counsel for Baltimore County" on Justia Law

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This was an action for judicial review to determine whether the Maryland Board of Public Works committed legal error in denying, by a two-to-one vote, Respondent's application for a license to fill and dredge on certain State wetlands. The circuit court concluded that the Board did err, by basing its decision on considerations outside the lawful scope of its discretion, and reversed the Board's decision. The Court of Appeals vacated the circuit court's judgment and remanded with instructions to vacate the Board's decision and remand the case to the Board, holding that the Board, through its majority vote, committed legal error by basing its decision on factors outside the scope of its authority and discretion. View "Bd. of Pub. Works v. K. Hovanian's Four Seasons" on Justia Law