Advance Corp. v. Balt. Cnty.

CourtUnited States District Courts. 4th Circuit. United States District Court (Maryland)
Docket NumberCiv. DLB-21-2926
Decision Date13 September 2022



Civ. No. DLB-21-2926

United States District Court, D. Maryland

September 13, 2022


Deborah L. Boardman United States District Judge

Advance Corporation (“Advance Corp.”), a storage warehouse business in Baltimore County, Maryland, filed suit against Baltimore County (“the County”), seeking a declaration that a prohibition of commercial vehicle parking in Advance Corp.'s zoning district does not apply to portions of public road in proximity to Advance Corp.'s leasehold. ECF 5. Alternatively, Advance Corp. claims the prohibition violates state law, the Fifth Amendment's takings and due process clauses, and the Fourteenth Amendment's equal protection clause. Id. The County, which removed the case to this Court from the Circuit Court for Baltimore County, has moved to dismiss the complaint. ECF 24. The motion is fully briefed. ECF 26 & 27. The Court heard argument on the motion on July 29, 2022. ECF 30. The motion is granted in part. The federal constitutional claims are dismissed. The Court declines to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the remaining state law claims. Accordingly, the case is remanded to the Circuit Court for Baltimore County.

I. Background

Advance Corp. is a family-owned Maryland corporation that has operated a storage warehouse business since 1939. ECF 19-1, ¶ 4. Its place of business has been Baltimore County since 1958. Id. It maintains a location at 11500 Crossroads Circle in Baltimore County and employs approximately 150 people. Id. ¶¶ 2, 4.


Advance Corp. entered a lease for general and warehouse use of 11500 Crossroads Circle on June 25, 2013. Id. ¶ 5. The lease began on January 1, 2014. Id. It provides for a 123-month term ending on March 30, 2024, and permits Advance Corp. to exercise two, five-year options to renew the lease thereafter. Id. Advance Corp. alleges that, “[w]hen it signed this lease, [it] intended to operate its business at 11500 Crossroads Circle for at least 20 years.” Id. Advance Corp. selected 11500 Crossroads Circle “based on the existing manufacturing zoning and [believing] that the area was going to be developed in a manner that would be consistent and conducive to heavy use warehousing and trucking.” Id. ¶ 6. It also “relied on being able to park and stand commercial trucks on Crossroads Circle, a public street, prior to being loaded, something that was then legal.” Id. 11500 Crossroads Circle and the surrounding areas are zoned manufacturing, light (“ML”) and are in the MD 43 Overlay and Industrial, Major (“IM”) Districts. Id. ¶¶ 2, 7.

On November 2, 2020, the Baltimore County Council enacted Bill 99-20, which added the following provision to County Code § 18-2-206:

Prohibition in the MD 43 Overlay District. A person may not park or stand a commercial vehicle on any public road street, alley[,] or way north of Tangier Drive and west of Earls Road in the MD 43 Overlay District. This prohibition shall not apply to any private road within the MD 43 Overlay District

Balt. Cnty. Code § 18-2-206(d); ECF 19-1, ¶ 3; see also ECF 26-2 (Bill 99-20). Subsection (a) of that same section provides: “This section applies to residential zones as provided in the county zoning regulations.” Balt. Cnty. Code § 18-2-206(a); ECF 19-1, ¶ 3. Violation of the bill's parking prohibition is a misdemeanor, Balt. Cnty. Code. § 18-2-206(e), punishable by a fine not to exceed $1,000 or by 90-days' imprisonment, Balt. Cnty. Code § 1-2-217(a). On or around September 1, 2021, the County posted signs on Crossroads Circle that stated: “NOTICE NO COMMERCIAL


VEHICLE PARKING ON THIS ROAD. CB- 99- 20.” Id. ¶ 8. “This was [Advance Corp.'s] first notice of the enactment of Bill 99-20 or even that it had been proposed.” Id.

As background for the County's enactment of Bill 99-20, Advance Corp. alleges that a developer, St. Johns Properties, acquired and developed land in 2017 in the Crossroads Circle area for “residential and office uses.” Id. ¶ 10. The development is known as the Arbors at Baltimore Crossroads. Id. St. John Properties acquired additional land in the area that it has developed or plans to develop for residential and office use. Id. “When St. John Properties started developing the Crossroads Circle area for office and residential use, it started pressing the County to prohibit the parking and standing of trucks on Crossroads Circle, ostensibly because it affected the marketability of the area to secure tenants.” Id. “St. John Properties itself had posted ‘no parking' signs on Crossroads Circle, a County roadway, which St. John Properties later removed at the direction of the County.” Id. According to Advance Corp., Bill 99-20 was enacted “after St. John Properties secretly lobbied to enhance the value and attractiveness of its development of residential and office uses in Crossroads Circle by banning the street parking and standing of commercial vehicles.” Id. ¶ 11.

Advance Corp. and its trucking vendors, “under threat of being charged with a misdemeanor as provided in Bill 99-20,” stopped parking on Crossroads Circle. Id. ¶ 12. This caused “disruption and dislocation” of Advance Corp.'s business. Id. Standing and parking commercial vehicles near the leasehold is “necessary” for Advance Corp.'s business because it allows for the loading and unloading of trucks. Id. Since the County posted the “no parking” signs, Advance Corp. “has had to incur the expense of renting and using a parking area about nine miles away from its place of business, which has resulted in less efficient loading and delivery of goods stored.” Id. ¶ 13. It pays $2,000 per month to rent the parking area and some of its vendors


“are deterred” from serving it due to the nine-mile relocation. Id. “The distance of nine miles also translates into extra time and labor to move the trucks, extra fuel costs, and increased risk of being on the road.” Id. Overall, Bill 99-20 “hinders and makes the operation of [Advance Corp.'s] business more costly, and substantially interferes with [its] ability to conduct its business as a storage warehouse business under its lease, so as to render [Advance Corp.'s] exercise of its option to renew its lease economically unfeasible.” Id.

Advance Corp. filed suit against the County in Baltimore County Circuit Court. ECF 1-1, at 7-13. The County removed the complaint to this Court based on federal question jurisdiction. ECF 1. Advance Corp. alleges violations of unspecified state laws and various provisions of the United States Constitution and seeks, among other relief, a declaration that Bill 99-20 is unenforceable as to it. Regarding its state law claims, Advance Corp. alleges that Bill 99-20 does not apply to the stretch of Crossroads Circle adjacent to its warehouse because the County Code provision applies to residential zones and its warehouse is in a manufacturing zone. ECF 19-1, ¶ 9. Advance Corp. also alleges Bill 99-20 does not apply to its location because it is not north of Tangier Drive. Id. Alternatively, it alleges Bill 99-20 is an invalid exercise of the County's police power and that the County, in passing Bill 99-20, impermissibly spot-zoned and did not provide for a necessary amortization period. Id. ¶¶ 14-15. As to its federal constitutional claims, Advance Corp. claims it is denied equal protection under the Fourteenth Amendment. Id. ¶ 17. It alleges Bill 99-20's application to it “amounts to an invalid deprivation of property rights constituting a regulatory taking of [its] leasehold interest[.]” Id. ¶ 16. It also alleges Bill 99-20 constitutes “a substantial interference in the operation of [its] business without due process of law in violation of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments[.]” Id. ¶¶ 16, 18. Finally, it alleges Bill 99-20 is “overly broad and vague” and “invalid as an arbitrary, capricious and unreasonable enactment.” Id. ¶ 19.


After this case was removed to this Court, Advance Corp. moved for summary judgment on its claim that Bill 99-20 does not apply to the portions of Crossroads Circle in proximity to 11500 Crossroads Circle. ECF 14. That motion remains pending. Subsequently, the County moved to dismiss the federal claims. ECF 24. At a hearing on the motion to dismiss, the Court dismissed the equal protection and regulatory takings claims for failure to state a claim and because Advance Corp. abandoned them. Accordingly, the only remaining federal questions are the substantive due process and void for vagueness claims.

II. Standard of Review

Under Rule 12(b)(6), a party may seek dismissal for failure “to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” Robertson v. Anderson Mill Elementary Sch., 989 F.3d 282, 290 (4th Cir. 2021) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6)). To survive the challenge, the opposing party must have pleaded facts demonstrating it has a plausible right to relief from the Court. Lokhova v. Halper, 995 F.3d 134, 141 (4th Cir. 2021) (citing Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009)). A plausible claim is more than merely conceivable or speculative. See Holloway v. Maryland, 32 F.4th 293, 299 (4th Cir. 2022). The allegations must show there is “more than a sheer possibility that the defendant has acted unlawfully.” Int'l Refugee Assistance Project v. Trump, 961 F.3d 635, 648 (4th Cir. 2020) (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678)). But the claim does not need to be probable, and the pleader need not show “that alternative explanations are less likely” than their theory. Jesus Christ is the Answer Ministries, Inc. v. Baltimore Cnty., 915 F.3d 256, 263 (4th Cir. 2019) (quoting Houck v. Substitute Tr. Servs., Inc., 791 F.3d 473, 484 (4th Cir. 2015)).

When ruling on a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the Court must accept the pleaded allegations as true and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the pleader. Williams v. Kincaid, 45 F.4th -, 2022 WL 3364824, at *3, *13 (4th Cir. Aug...

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