Sakaria v. Prince George's County, 011019 MDSCA, 2362-2016

Docket Nº:2362-2016
Opinion Judge:ZARNOCH, J.
Party Name:ELPIS SAKARIA v. PRINCE GEORGE'S COUNTY, MARYLAND
Judge Panel:Meredith, Reed, Zarnoch, Robert A. (Senior Judge, Specially Assigned), JJ.
Case Date:January 10, 2019
Court:Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
 
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ELPIS SAKARIA

v.

PRINCE GEORGE'S COUNTY, MARYLAND

No. 2362-2016

Court of Special Appeals of Maryland

January 10, 2019

CIRCUIT COURT FOR PRINCE GEORGE'S COUNTY CASE NO. CAL16-24027

Meredith, Reed, Zarnoch, Robert A. (Senior Judge, Specially Assigned), JJ.

OPINION [*]

ZARNOCH, J.

This appeal from a decision of the Circuit Court for Prince George's County is a case about timing: 1) the more than 30-year delay in an administrative agency's resolution of a citizen appeal; 2) the timing of judicial intervention via declaratory judgment in the face of inaction in the administrative proceeding; and 3) the events that have occurred on the administrative front since the circuit court's dismissal of the declaratory judgment action for a failure to exhaust administrative remedies. In our opinion, we must take judicial notice of the latter events and of the conclusion of all administrative proceedings (except for the issuance of a final determination). Doing so, we find that the appellant, Elpis Sakaria, has now exhausted her administrative remedies. Therefore, we vacate the circuit court's dismissal of her declaratory action and remand for further proceedings.

FACTS AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND Pre-2018 Administrative Action

In January of 1985, the Prince George's County Historic Preservation Commission (HPC) notified the Sakarias1 that it was considering designating their property, formerly known as the Briarly Military Academy in Beltsville, as an "historic site."[2] Later that month, the HPC notified the couple that it had so designated the property and informed them that if they disagreed with the HPC decision they could appeal to the County Council, which would hold a public hearing.

On February 10, 1985, the Sakarias filed a timely appeal, which the HPC acknowledged and advised that "[y]our appeal will be forwarded to the Council for action" and "[t]he Clerk of the Council will notify you of the date of the hearing before the County Council." Apparently, no such transmittal occurred and for more than three decades no hearing was held before the Council on the proposed designation of the Sakarias' property.

In 2015, the HPC initiated a demolition by neglect administrative proceeding to require Ms. Sakaria to provide maintenance of and repairs to the property. Facing daily fines, Ms. Sakaria sought judicial relief.

Circuit Court Action

On May 26, 2016, Ms. Sakaria filed a complaint for declaratory judgment in the circuit court naming Prince George's County as defendant and requesting a declaration that her property "has never been properly designated as historic" and an order that the HPC remove her property from its inventory of historic sites and properties. The County responded with a motion to dismiss or, in the alternative, motion for summary judgment, arguing that Ms. Sakaria failed to exhaust her administrative remedies, that a declaratory judgment would not terminate the controversy absent the pursuit of administrative remedies, and that the action was barred by laches and waiver. The County maintained that the Sakarias allowed the property to deteriorate to the prejudice of the County and that the "delay, and the deterioration of the property is the fault of the Plaintiff exclusively."3

In...

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