Articles Posted in Maryland Court of Appeals

by
A county may rescind its approval of a municipality’s rezoning of annexed land. The Town Commissioners of Queenstown annexed farm land adjacent to Queenstown in Queen Anne’s County and rezoned the annexed land for purposes of a planned development. The Town sought the County’s approval of the new zoning classification. The outgoing Board of County Commissioners approved the Town’s rezoning. After the November 2014 election, the newly installed Board of County Commissioners rescinded that approval. Waterman and the Town then brought this action against the County. The circuit court issued a declaratory judgment that the resolution rescinding approval had “no legal force and effect.” The Court of Special Appeals reversed. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that the County had authority to rescind the initial resolution approving the rezoning. View "Waterman Family Ltd. Partnership v. Boomer" on Justia Law

by
This lawsuit was the result of the amendments to an area master plan to prohibit surface mining in certain mineral-rich areas of the county. The amendments were made by County Council of Prince George’s County, sitting as district council. At issue before the Supreme Court was whether two mining companies and a mining trade organization (collectively, Respondents) could seek judicial review of the master plan and whether the master plan amendments were preempted by state law. The Court of Appeals held (1) Respondents can seek judicial review of the master plan under Md. Code Ann. Land Use 22-407; (2) the trial court erred in upholding the district council’s adoption of the master plan amendments as procedurally proper; but (3) the amendments are severable, and the remaining portions of the master plan still stand. View "County Council of Prince George's County v. Chaney Enterprises Ltd." on Justia Law

by
This lawsuit was the result of the amendments to an area master plan to prohibit surface mining in certain mineral-rich areas of the county. The amendments were made by County Council of Prince George’s County, sitting as district council. At issue before the Supreme Court was whether two mining companies and a mining trade organization (collectively, Respondents) could seek judicial review of the master plan and whether the master plan amendments were preempted by state law. The Court of Appeals held (1) Respondents can seek judicial review of the master plan under Md. Code Ann. Land Use 22-407; (2) the trial court erred in upholding the district council’s adoption of the master plan amendments as procedurally proper; but (3) the amendments are severable, and the remaining portions of the master plan still stand. View "County Council of Prince George's County v. Chaney Enterprises Ltd." on Justia Law

by
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

by
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

by
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

by
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

by
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

by
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

by
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