Colandrea v. Wilde Lake

Decision Date08 November 2000
Docket NumberNo. 24,24
Citation361 Md. 371,761 A.2d 899
PartiesRichard C. COLANDREA v. WILDE LAKE COMMUNITY ASSOCIATION, INC., et al.
CourtMaryland Court of Appeals

James G. Kress (Brian D. Wallach of Howrey, Simon, Arnold & White, LLP, on brief), Washington, DC, for appellant.

David H. Bamberger (Edward S. Scheideman of Piper, Marbury, Rudnick & Wolfe, LLP, on brief), Washington, DC, for appellees.

Argued before BELL, C.J., and ELDRIDGE, RODOWSKY, RAKER, WILNER, CATHELL and HARRELL, JJ CATHELL, Judge.

Richard C. Colandrea, appellant, appealed from a decision of the Circuit Court for Howard County in favor of the Wilde Lake Community Association, Inc. (hereafter referred to as Association). Appellant alleges that the trial court erred in its ruling on the applicability of one of the Association covenants, and on its ruling that the enforcement of that covenant by the Association's Architectural Committee (hereafter referred to as Committee) was appropriate. We granted certiorari on our own motion prior to consideration by the Court of Special Appeals.1 Colandrea presents three issues, as follows:

I. Whether the Circuit Court erred in rejecting Colandrea's Fair Housing Act counterclaim where it was demonstrated at trial that: (1) the Village steadfastly refused to make any reasonable accommodation for the group home; (2) the Village's enforcement of the restrictive covenant evinced certain Architectural Committee members' discriminatory intent and retaliation against Colandrea for providing housing to the disabled; and (3) the Village's selective enforcement of the restrictive covenant has a disparate impact on the disabled.
II. Whether the Circuit Court erred in granting a permanent injunction which will result in the permanent closure of housing for the disabled without requiring the Village to demonstrate the four prerequisites for such relief.
III. Whether the Circuit Court erred in holding that the Architectural Committee's decision to close the senior-assisted facility was reasonable, made in good faith, and was not whimsical, capricious or high-handed, where the decision was not supported by any competent evidence and in any event was a mere pretext for improper motives harbored by at least some of the Committee members.

We answer each issue in the negative. The trial court neither erred nor abused its discretion. We shall affirm.

Facts

The Village of Wilde Lake is one of the unincorporated, planned, largely residential communities encompassed under the larger unincorporated, planned community of Columbia in Howard County. The various communities, including The Village of Wilde Lake are managed, i.e., governed, by community associations. These associations utilize covenants in the nature of contractual obligations that run with the land, in order to regulate the uses of the properties under their purview.2 The parties do not contest the existence of the restriction at issue, or that it is a covenant running with the land. The covenant at issue provides:

Section 11.02. No profession or home industry shall be conducted in or on any part of a Lot or in any improvement thereon on the Property without the specific written approval of the Architectural Committee. The Architectural Committee, in its discretion, upon consideration of the circumstances in each case, and particularly the effect on surrounding property, may permit a Lot or any improvement thereon to be used in whole or in part for the conduct of a profession or home industry. No such profession or home industry shall be permitted, however, unless it is considered, by the Architectural Committee, to be compatible with a high quality residential neighborhood. The following activities, without limitation, may be permitted by the Architectural Committee in its discretion: music, art and dancing classes; day nurseries and schools; medical and dental offices; fraternal or social club meeting place; seamstress services.

Colandrea owns two abutting properties, with existing dwellings, located at 10433 and 10461 Waterfowl Terrace in the Village of Wilde Lake. The Committee approved 10461 Waterfowl Terrace, but not 10433 Waterfowl Terrace, when considering Colandrea's applications to use the properties as senior-assisted living facilities.3 The decision of the Committee was, in relevant part, as follows:

With respect to 10461 Waterfowl Terrace [Log No. 4432(b)], the Committee has approved the application, but only upon the following conditions, as previously explained at the February 27, 1996 meeting:

....

With respect to 10433 Waterfowl Terrace [Log No. 4432(a)], the Committee disapproved the application at the February 27, 1996 meeting. Based upon the Committee's review and consideration of all the documents submitted in regard to the application, as well as the testimony at the Architectural Committee meetings on February 13 and February 27, 1996, it is the Committee's judgement that the incremental increase in the amount of traffic, congestion, noise, trash and waste, as well as parking problems attributable to an additional facility at that location, have had and would continue to have a detrimental impact on the residential character of the neighborhood, particularly in view of the unique configuration of the street and the surrounding properties. [Alterations in original.]

After the decision of the Committee, appellant continued to operate and expressed his intention to continue to operate, a senior-assisted living facility at 10433 Waterfowl Terrace in spite of the Committee's disapproval of his application. In response, the Association instituted the present proceedings in the circuit court seeking injunctive relief, asking the court to enjoin the operation of the business at 10433 Waterfowl Terrace. That court, after discussing the evidence presented to it, granted injunctive relief. It discussed the evidence, in part, as follows and then granted an injunction:

Michael Deets [a member and Chair of the Architectural Committee] ... stated that numerous concerns were expressed by residents at the February 13 meeting, including issues pertaining to excessive trash, noise, traffic flow problems, parking problems, and concerns about whether Mr. Colandrea or his mother actually resided on the property.4...
Mr. Deets testified that similar concerns were advanced at the February 27 meeting. One resident spoke about the possibility of medical waste and the lack of information concerning the storage of such waste; while another commented upon the issue of adult diapers and potential sewer problems. The Committee voted to approve the application for 10461 ... and voted disapproval of the application for 10433....

....

The Plaintiff [the Association] produced as a witness, James Meale, a member of the Architectural Committee.... He described the February 13 meeting as follows:
"There were a number of residents there.... There was some emotion certainly. I would say in general I found it to be reasoned. There were the general complaints against trash, traffic, congestion, lights shining at people's homes from the property. That the general feeling was that this was a residential neighborhood and that two (2) homes were disruptive to that neighborhood. The general comments, as I recall them, were that one (1) home would be alright, two (2) homes were too many."

Mr. Meale described the February 27 meeting, as follows:

"There were more people at that meeting, maybe twenty-five (25). There was more discussion, much of it along the same lines. I believe it was at this second meeting that the issue of medical waste and whether there was medical waste being discarded at the homes, was brought up. I remember there were several medical people there, who basically led that discussion. There was the same discussion of traffic congestion, emergency vehicles, feeling of lack of maintenance of the property during snow storms was brought up. The ambulance had to pull in across the street at one point."

Mr. Meale stated that he believed observations of his neighbors was "accurate." He found their information credible. He stated that he voted for approval of the 10461 application and against the 10433 application. He explained his vote as follows:

"I am ... have been involved with working with elderly my whole career.... I came in really believing that I would vote for two applications. I came to believe listening to a testimony and also looking at the history of the application process, the fact that Mr. Colandrea did not want to even apply for an in-home business and then when he was ordered to do so, delayed it.... I came to the conclusion that two (2) houses really did overtax the neighborhood. That in my view this was one (1) business with two (2) locations. It's advertised that way, it's still advertised that way and that the house at 10461, the one I supported, has a long driveway, which if properly used, could handle a good deal of the traffic or the visitors and the staff. That the house on the corner [10433 Waterfowl Terrace], the one I voted against, seemed to me to be on the corner of a moderately busy street, in a particularly congested area and that the obstructions on the street and to the neighbors and to the community were serious at that point and there wasn't much way to correct them because the driveway was small, one car length, relatively narrow and that two (2) houses were overtaxing the infrastructure of the area of this particular neighborhood."

This Court finds the testimony of Mr. Meale regarding the Committee's reasons for denying the application of 10433 particularly persuasive. This Court finds that the decision of the Architectural Committee to disapprove the facility at 10433 was based upon concerns by the residents relating to trash, noise, parking, traffic, sewage and health. These concerns were heightened by a realization that Colandrea had been insensitive to his neighbors in the past and a further realization
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