Bazzarre v. County Council of Prince George's County Maryland, 053017 MDSCA, 1016

Docket Nº:1016, 1017, 1019, 1023, 1024, 1061, 1062, 1426
Opinion Judge:Kehoe, J.
Party Name:Frank Bazzarre et al. v. County Council of Prince George's County Maryland, Sitting as the District Council, et al. Christmas Farm, LLC v. County Council of Prince George's County Maryland, Sitting as the District Council MCQ Auto Servicecenter, Inc. v. County Council of Prince George's County Maryland, Sitting as the District Council Robin ...
Judge Panel:Kenney, James A., III, (Senior Judge, Specially Assigned), JJ.
Case Date:May 30, 2017
Court:Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
 
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Frank Bazzarre et al.

v.

County Council of Prince George's County Maryland, Sitting as the District Council, et al.

Christmas Farm, LLC

v.

County Council of Prince George's County Maryland, Sitting as the District Council

MCQ Auto Servicecenter, Inc.

v.

County Council of Prince George's County Maryland, Sitting as the District Council

Robin Dale Land, LLC

v.

County Council of Prince George's County Maryland, Sitting as the District Council

ERCO Properties, Inc.

v.

County Council of Prince George's County Maryland, Sitting as the District Council

Piscataway Road-Clinton MD, LLC

v.

County Council of Prince George's County Maryland, Sitting as the District Council

Nos. 1016, 1017, 1019, 1023, 1024, 1061, 1062, 1426

Court of Special Appeals of Maryland

May 30, 2017

Kenney, James A., III, (Senior Judge, Specially Assigned), JJ.

OPINION [*]

Kehoe, J.

Contents

Introduction

Part 1. An Abbreviated Statutory Overview

A. The Regional District Act

B. The Prince George's County Code

C. The Maryland Public Ethics Law Part

2. Factual and Procedural Background

A. General Overview

B. Subsequent Proceedings Before the District Council and the Planning Board

C. The Current Litigation

Part 3. The Parties' Contentions

Part 4. The Standard of Review

Part 5. The District Council's Procedural Contentions

A. Finality of Judgment (The Clagetts)

B. Appellate Jurisdiction (Robin Dale and Christmas Farm)

C. Standing (The Clagetts, Robin Dale, and ERCO)

D. Mootness (The Claggets, Robin Dale, and ERCO)

E. Exhaustion of Administrative Remedies (Christmas Farm and MCQ Auto)

F. Preservation

Part 6. The Accokeek Judgment

A. Compliance with Court Orders

B. The Proper Construction of the Accokeek Judgment

C. What Actually Happened

D. Conclusion

Part 7. The Individual Appellants

A. The Clagetts

B. Christmas Farm

C. ERCO Properties

D. Robin Dale Land, LLC

E. MCQ Auto

F. Piscataway

Part 8. Our Holdings

Introduction

In this opinion, we address appeals from eight judgments entered by the Circuit Court for Prince George's County affirming 2013 legislation by the County Council of Prince George's County sitting as the District Council (the "District Council"). The legislation in question, CR-80-2013, CR-81-2013, CR-82-2013 and CR-83-2013 (collectively the "2013 Resolutions"), approved new area master plans and enacted sectional map amendments for Planning Subregions 5 and 6 in the County. The appellants are: Charles Clagett, H. Manning Clagett, Christine Clagett, Diane Clagett Hoesch, Lee Clagett, James Clagett, Richard Clagett and Frank Bazzarre (collectively "the Clagetts); Christmas Farm, LLC; MCQ Auto Servicecenter, Inc.; Robin Dale Land, LLC; ERCO Properties, Inc.; and Piscataway Road-Clinton MD, LLC ("Piscataway"). They are property owners who are dissatisfied with the zoning and/or area master plan classifications assigned to their properties by means of the 2013 Resolutions. The appellee is the District Council, joined in one appeal by the Accokeek Mattawoman Piscataway Communities Council and some of its members (collectively, "AMP").

These appeals were not consolidated because they do not all involve precisely the same legal and factual issues. Nonetheless, they arise out of the same factual background. For that reason, they were scheduled for oral argument on the same day and before the same panel. For the sake of judicial efficiency, we will address all of the appeals in one opinion.

The opinion consists of several parts:

Part 1 is a summary of the pertinent provisions of the Maryland-Washington Regional District Act, which authorizes Prince George's County to engage in land use regulation; the Prince George's County Zoning Ordinance; and the Maryland Public Ethics Law.

Part 2 describes the convoluted factual background that is common to all of the appeals.

In Part 3, we summarize the parties' contentions.

Part 4 sets out the appropriate standard of review.

In Part 5, we address procedural arguments raised by the District Council as to why some of the appellants are not entitled to the appellate relief that they seek.

In Part 6, we analyze an appellate contention raised by most of the appellants, namely, that the actions of the District Council that led up to the enactment of the 2013 Resolutions were not consistent with an earlier judgment of the circuit court.

In Part 7, we explain how our resolution of that contention affects the outcome of each appeal. This will necessarily involve further analysis of the particular facts of each case as well as consideration of the other appellate contentions raised by each party.

Finally, in Part 8, we will summarize our holdings.

When everything is said and done, we will dismiss two appeals (both filed by the Clagetts) as moot, and will reverse the judgments of the circuit court in the remaining cases. We will remand the remaining Clagett case and the Christmas Farm, ERCO, Robin Dale, and MCQ cases to the District Council for further proceedings consistent with this opinion. However, no remand to the District Council is necessary for Piscataway.

We ask for the reader's patience, fully aware that we will try it long before our task is complete.

Part 1. An Abbreviated Statutory Overview

A. The Regional District Act

Prince George's County derives its authority to engage in land use regulation from the Maryland-Washington Regional District Act (the "RDA"). Prince George's County v. Zimmer Development Co., 444 Md. 490, 524-25 (2015);

County Council of Prince George's County v. Brandywine Enterprises, Inc., 350 Md. 339, 342 (1998). The RDA is now codified as Md. Code Ann. (2012), Division II of the Land Use Article ("LU"). Although the RDA certainly has its nuances, some of which were explored by the Court of Appeals in Zimmer, 444 Md. at 523-30, land use control in the Regional District operates on the same conceptual bases as does land use regulation in the rest of the State. The RDA divides land use control into three broad categories: land use planning, zoning, and subdivision regulation.1 We are concerned with the first two aspects of governmental regulation in these appeals.

The RDA assigns the primary responsibility for planning to the Maryland-National Park and Planning Commission (the "Commission"), which is a non-partisan body of ten members, five chosen from Montgomery and five from Prince George's County. LU § 15-102. 2 The five members of the Commission from each county also serve as the planning board for that county. LU § 20-201. Among other duties, a planning board "is responsible for planning, subdivision, and zoning functions that are primarily local in scope[.]" LU § 20-202(a)(1)(i). These duties specifically include "the preparation and adoption of recommendations to the district council with respect to zoning map amendments[.]"LU § 20-202((b)(2).

Among its other planning responsibilities, and at the direction of the appropriate district council, the Commission is charged with preparing a general plan for each county. LU § 21-103. Additionally, the Commission is required to divide each county into local planning areas and to prepare area master plans for each planning area. LU § 21-105(b) and (c).3 Currently, Prince George's County is divided into seven such areas, which are termed "subregions."

Area master plans "differ from General Plans 'in that master plans govern a specific, smaller portion of the County and are often more detailed in their recommendations than the countywide General Plan as to that same area.'" Maryland-Nat. Capital Park & Planning Comm'n v. Greater Baden-Aquasco Citizens Ass'n, 412 Md. 73, 89 (2009) (quoting Garner v. Archers Glen Partners, 405 Md. 43, 48 n. 5 (2008) (brackets omitted)).

General and master plans must be approved by the relevant district council before they become effective. LU § 21-212 (Montgomery County); LU § 21-216 (Prince George's County). The Prince George's County District Council must consider whether to direct the Commission to update each local planning area master plan on at least a sexennial basis. LU § 21-105(c)(1)(i). When this occurs, the Commission shall review the existing master plan, shall make such amendments as it deems necessary, and may make recommendations for "zoning, the staging of development and public improvements[.]" LU § 21-105(c)(2).

The RDA allocates responsibility for zoning, including, and particularly relevant to these appeals, comprehensive zoning and rezoning, to the...

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