LEGISLATIVE AND ZONING COMMITTEE CHAIRPERSON: John Leopold: GPC.Leg21122@GMail
THE GPC RECENTLY RECEIVED A REQUEST TO SUPPORT THE GROWTH ACTION NETWORK'S "CAMPAIGN" TO SUPPORT THE FOLLOWING LEGISLATION. THIS ISSUE WILL BE ADDRESSED AND DISCUSSED AT THE GPC GENERAL MEMBERSHIP MEETING ON WEDNESDAY, MARCH 2nd.
To Members of the Maryland House Environment and Transportation Committee
February 16, 2016
The members Growth Action Network of Anne Arundel County, Inc. listed below urge you to support bills HB 243/SB 166 to restore to citizens the right to seek redress in the courts when their property values have been harmed by unlawful zoning changes.
Until a year ago, Maryland law, like the law of virtually all other states, allowed property owners of a nearby parcel that been rezoned during comprehensive rezoning to challenge that change in the courts. The recent decision of the Court of Appeals in Anne Arundel County v. Bell deprived property owners of that right. The Court held that nearby property owners no longer had standing to raise their claims.
It is noteworthy that Maryland law does give property owners injured by an administrative zoning change the right to challenge such a change in the courts. As the strong dissent in the Bell case pointed out, it is irrational that a property owner injured by a zoning change made by comprehensive rezoning should be denied that right. To the owner of the property, the damage is the same whether or not an unlawful zoning change resulted from administrative rezoning or comprehensive rezoning.
The Anne Arundel County rezoning process at issue in the Bell case took over two years and was, for the most part, transparent and open to input by citizens. Requests for rezoning were available on the County website, and public comments on those requests were solicited. On the basis of this public record, the Planning and Zoning Department prepared a draft ordinance and submitted it to the County Council.
At that point, however, the process broke down. During debate on the bill, the Council introduced and passed a large number of amendments with little time for review by the Office of Planning and Zoning and virtually no opportunity for public review. On the grounds that these amendments were inconsistent with the County’s comprehensive plan and constituted unlawful zoning, the County Executive vetoed several of those amendments. The County Council then overrode several of those vetoes, and the zoning changes became part of the final ordinance. Bell, and a companion case were brought to challenge several of those amendments on the grounds that they violated Maryland law.
In Bell the Court of Appeals held that the property owners who believe their property rights have been injured by a zoning change made in comprehensive rezoning have no standing to challenge the rezoning as unlawful. This allows municipal legislatures to ride roughshod over the property rights of individual citizens without fear of judicial challenge. We urge you to adopt HB 243/SB 166 , restoring to Maryland property owners a fundamental right.
Annapolis Neck Federation Arnold Preservation Council Broadneck Council of Communities
Crofton First Harwood Civic Association Jessup Improvement Association
Magothy River Association South River Federation