Baltimore v. Valsamaki, No. 55, September Term, 2006.

CourtCourt of Special Appeals of Maryland
Writing for the CourtCathell
Citation916 A.2d 324,397 Md. 222
Docket NumberNo. 55, September Term, 2006.
Decision Date08 February 2007
PartiesMAYOR AND CITY COUNCIL OF BALTIMORE CITY v. George VALSAMAKI, et al.
916 A.2d 324
397 Md. 222
MAYOR AND CITY COUNCIL OF BALTIMORE CITY
v.
George VALSAMAKI, et al.
No. 55, September Term, 2006.
Court of Appeals of Maryland.
February 8, 2007.

[916 A.2d 326]

Elva E. Tillman, Special Solicitor, Sandra R. Gutman, Chief Solicitor (Ralph S. Tyler, City Solicitor, on brief), for appellant.

John C. Murphy, Baltimore, James L. Thompson (Miller, Miller & Canby, Rockville, on brief), for appellees.

Argued before BELL, C.J., RAKER,* WILNER, CATHELL, HARRELL, BATTAGLIA and GREENE, JJ.

CATHELL, J.


This case arises from a "quick-take" condemnation1 by the Mayor and City Council of Baltimore ("the City"), appellant, of a property located at 1924 N. Charles Street ("the Property") in Baltimore, Maryland. The Property consists of a three story building which houses a bar and package goods store known as the Magnet.2 On March 9, 2006, the City filed a petition for condemnation and a petition for immediate possession and title with the Circuit Court for Baltimore City. On March 15, 2006, prior to the property owner being served with any papers, the Circuit Court granted the City's petitions, ordering that the City "be vested with possession of the fee simple interest in that property known as 1924 N. Charles Street . . . as of the 15th day of March, 2006 . . . ." Pursuant to the court's order,

916 A.2d 327

title in the Property would vest in the City ten days after personal service of the relevant order on the owner of the Property, George Valsamaki, et al., appellee, unless he filed an answer to the City's petitions within the ten day period "alleging that the City does not have the right or power to condemn title to the property. . . ."

Mr. Valsamaki filed an answer within the requisite time period and a hearing was scheduled and held on April 18, 2006. On May 19, 2006, the Circuit Court issued a memorandum opinion denying the City's petitions for condemnation and immediate possession and title to the Property. On August 8, 2006, after a motion to reconsider had been denied, the City noted a direct appeal to this Court.3

The City presents one question for our review:

"Does the City have the burden to prove `necessity' to proceed with a quick take condemnation?"

We answer this question in the affirmative, holding that under the Code of Public Local Laws of Baltimore City, § 21-16(a),4 the City must demonstrate the reason or reasons why it is necessary for it to have immediate possession and immediate title to a particular property via the exercise of a quick-take condemnation.

I. Facts

This case has its genesis in Baltimore City's urban renewal efforts. On October 25, 1982, the Mayor and City Council of

916 A.2d 328

Baltimore adopted Ordinance No. 82-799, which established the Charles North Urban Renewal Plan for the Charles North Revitalization Area.5 Ordinance No. 82-799 sets forth the goals and objectives of the Charles North Urban Renewal Plan as follows:

"The basic goal of this Urban Renewal Plan is the revitalization of the Charles/ North area in order to create a unique mixed-use neighborhood with enhanced viability, stability, attractiveness, and convenience for residents of the surrounding area and of the City as a whole. The objectives of this Plan include:

a. protecting existing residential neighborhoods;

b. establishing a positive and identifiable image for the Charles/North Area compatible with the surrounding residential areas;

c. accommodating the expansion of existing retail small business;

d. promoting new retail business activity in the area;

e. establishing and enforcing uniform comprehensive design and rehabilitation standards that will enhance the physical environment of the business area through private investment;

f. bringing about a general physical improvement of the area through coordinated public improvements;

g. providing a pleasant environment for the staging of year-round promotional activities and events; and

h. removing blighting influences and creating development lots for commercial uses."

The Property is located within the boundaries of the Charles North Revitalization

916 A.2d 329

Area. In June 2004, the Mayor and City Council of Baltimore amended the Charles North Urban Renewal Plan by Baltimore City Ordinance No. 04-695, which specifically authorized the acquisition of the subject Property "by purchase or by condemnation, for urban renewal purposes . . . ."

The issue before us arose on March 9, 2006, when the City acted on Ordinance No. 04-695 and filed a petition for condemnation and a petition for immediate possession of and title to the Property in the Circuit Court for Baltimore City. The petition for condemnation stated in pertinent part:

"[The City] is duly authorized to acquire the Property Interest hereinafter described [the Property] for public purposes by the following Ordinance(s) of the Mayor and City Council of Baltimore, viz: Article 13 § 2-7(h)[6] of the Baltimore City Code (2000 edition), approved November 11, 1999 and Ordinance No. 04-695, approved June 23, 2004."

. . .

"This property will be used for redevelopment purposes; namely in the Charles North Project area."

The petition for immediate possession and title stated in pertinent part: "That it is necessary for [the City] to acquire immediate possession and title to the said property interest as appears from the affidavit of William N. Burgee, Director of Property Acquisition and Relocation, Department of Housing and Community Development, attached hereto and prayed to be taken as a part hereof." Relevantly, the attached affidavit read: "The property known as 1924 N. Charles Street, Block 3602, Lot 04[,] must be in possession of the Mayor and City Council of Baltimore at the earliest possible time in order to assist in a business expansion in the area." [Emphasis added]. There was no attempt in the affidavit to specify the immediacy of the necessity other than a general statement that it was needed "at the earliest possible time" "to assist in a business expansion." There was no discussion of "why."7

On March 15, 2006, the Circuit Court granted the City's petitions, as discussed supra. Mr. Valsamaki, the owner of the Property, timely filed an answer challenging the City's power to condemn title to the Property and a hearing was set for April 18, 2006.

Prior to the April 18, 2006, hearing, Mr. Valsamaki attempted to obtain discovery

916 A.2d 330

by serving interrogatories and notices of depositions on various city officials involved with the Charles North Urban Renewal Plan, namely, Mr. Burgee and Paul J.M. Dombrowski (an official at the Baltimore Development Corporation responsible for the Charles North Project). Due to the abbreviated time period in which quick-take condemnation proceedings generally take place, the City would not have to respond under the normal discovery time line before the April 18, 2006, hearing.8 Therefore, Mr. Valsamaki moved to shorten the time for discovery in order to ensure a response before the hearing. On April 4, 2006, the Circuit Court for Baltimore City denied that motion and, consequently, the City did not comply with the discovery requests prior to the April 18, 2006, hearing, and Mr. Valsamaki was forced to litigate without the aid of discovery practices, practices that would have been available in a regular condemnation action.

On April 18, 2006, the hearing took place. The Charles North Urban Renewal Plan, illustrated by Ordinance No. 82-799, was introduced into evidence by the City, along with Ordinance No. 04-695, a map of the renewal area, and a photograph of the Property. The City called two witnesses at the hearing. The first witness was Mr. Dombrowski, the Director of Planning and Design for the Baltimore Development Corporation and also the Project Manager for the Charles North area. On cross examination by Mr. Valsamaki's counsel, the following colloquy occurred:

"Q Were you aware of the Affidavit by Mr. Burgee stating the necessity for, the reason for, necessity for the taking?

A I was aware that an Affidavit had been presented to the Law Department.[9]

Q And are you aware of the contents of that Affidavit?

A I had not reviewed it before it was sent.

Q Do you know what is meant by a business expansion in the area?

A I think so. It means, to us, at least, the opportunity to provide for additional

916 A.2d 331

business expansion opportunities.

Q Is there any plan for the development of this property?

A The specific property?

Q Yes.

A Not as yet because the procedure we follow is through a request for proposal procedure as you well know.

Q So —

A When we assemble the site, we put it out for public offering for redevelopment.

Q So when the Amendment was adopted in '04, the City really didn't have any idea what it was going to use the property for?

A We wanted mixed use development, but we had no specific plans because they follow on with the proposals. They come in as part of a proposal.

. . .

Q But you really, at this point in time, and at the time you adopted the amendment, you really didn't have any plan for this property; did you?

A Did not have a specific plan for the property. We are seeking mixed use development for that assemblage of properties.

Q That onset of seeking mixed use development, is that set forth in Exhibit 1 at all?

A I believe so. I believe the —

Q Could you point that out, then?

THE COURT: I'm sorry. Mr. Clerk, could you hand this back, please, to Counsel while he's — thank you.

A I'm referring . . . to page 1 of the Urban Renewal Plan, the very bottom of the page, `Item 2, Plan Objectives.[10] The basic goal of this Urban Renewal Plan is the revitalization of the Charles North area in order to create a unique mixed-use neighborhood with enhanced viability, stability, attractiveness and convenience for residents, et cetera. So, I think this is —

Q I'm trying to understand this. This mixed-use concept then is just a conglomeration of different uses; is that...

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15 practice notes
  • Maziar v. Wash. State Dep't of Corr., No. 71068–1–I.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Washington
    • March 24, 2014
    ...See Sys. Components Corp. v. Fla. Dep't of Transp., 14 So.3d 967, 975 (Fla.2009); Mayor & City Council of Baltimore City v. Valsamaki, 397 Md. 222, 241, 916 A.2d 324 (2007); R.I. Econ. Dev. Corp. v. The Parking Co., LP, 892 A.2d 87, 96 (R.I.2006); Dep't of Transp. v. M.M. Fowler, Inc., ......
  • Franco v. Ncrc, No. 06-CV-645.
    • United States
    • District of Columbia Court of Appeals of Columbia District
    • July 12, 2007
    ...have inquired whether the record demonstrates a public purpose for the taking. See Mayor and City Council of Baltimore City v. Valsamaki, 397 Md. 222, 916 A.2d 324, 351-52 & n. 26 (2007) (invalidating quick-take condemnation designed to assist business expansion in the area because the ......
  • Summerour v. City of Marietta, A16A0640
    • United States
    • United States Court of Appeals (Georgia)
    • July 8, 2016
    ...which, in all fairness and justice, should be borne by the public as a whole.”); Mayor & City Council of Baltimore City v. Valsamaki , 397 Md. 222 (II), 916 A.2d 324, 335 (2007) (“The right to private property, and the protection of that right, is a bedrock principle of our constitution......
  • Sapero v. Baltimore, No. 72, Sept. Term, 2006.
    • United States
    • Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
    • April 12, 2007
    ...As noted, the Circuit Court entered its judgment in this case prior to our decision in Mayor and City Council of Baltimore v. Valsamaki, 397 Md. 222, 916 A.2d 324 (2007). Therefore, the trial court did not have the benefit of our recent decision discussing the requirement of a showing of im......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
15 cases
  • Maziar v. Wash. State Dep't of Corr., No. 71068–1–I.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Washington
    • March 24, 2014
    ...See Sys. Components Corp. v. Fla. Dep't of Transp., 14 So.3d 967, 975 (Fla.2009); Mayor & City Council of Baltimore City v. Valsamaki, 397 Md. 222, 241, 916 A.2d 324 (2007); R.I. Econ. Dev. Corp. v. The Parking Co., LP, 892 A.2d 87, 96 (R.I.2006); Dep't of Transp. v. M.M. Fowler, Inc., ......
  • Franco v. Ncrc, No. 06-CV-645.
    • United States
    • District of Columbia Court of Appeals of Columbia District
    • July 12, 2007
    ...have inquired whether the record demonstrates a public purpose for the taking. See Mayor and City Council of Baltimore City v. Valsamaki, 397 Md. 222, 916 A.2d 324, 351-52 & n. 26 (2007) (invalidating quick-take condemnation designed to assist business expansion in the area because the ......
  • Summerour v. City of Marietta, A16A0640
    • United States
    • United States Court of Appeals (Georgia)
    • July 8, 2016
    ...which, in all fairness and justice, should be borne by the public as a whole.”); Mayor & City Council of Baltimore City v. Valsamaki , 397 Md. 222 (II), 916 A.2d 324, 335 (2007) (“The right to private property, and the protection of that right, is a bedrock principle of our constitution......
  • Sapero v. Baltimore, No. 72, Sept. Term, 2006.
    • United States
    • Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
    • April 12, 2007
    ...As noted, the Circuit Court entered its judgment in this case prior to our decision in Mayor and City Council of Baltimore v. Valsamaki, 397 Md. 222, 916 A.2d 324 (2007). Therefore, the trial court did not have the benefit of our recent decision discussing the requirement of a showing of im......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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