Justia Zoning, Planning & Land Use Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Maryland Court of Appeals
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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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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

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After Petitioners, Montgomery Preservation, Inc. and others, made proper formal requests, the Montgomery County Planning Board of the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (MNCPPC) decided not to recommend a certain building for historic designation, and not to amend the county's master plan or historic preservation to include the building. The Planning Board forwarded this non-recommendation to the Montgomery County Council, which, sitting as an administrative agency, concluded it could take no action on the matter and therefore did nothing. Petitioners sought a writ of administrative mandamus, claiming that the Council's inaction rendered the Planning Board's previous recommendation final and appealable. The circuit court dismissed the complaint, holding that no judicial review of the Planning Board's recommendation could take place because the Council had indeed "acted" under the relevant statute. The court of special appeals affirmed. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that the Planning Board's recommendation was not a final appealable agency decision. View "Montgomery Preservation v. MNCPP" on Justia Law