Kirkman v. Montgomery County Council

Citation251 Md. 273,247 A.2d 255
Decision Date07 November 1968
Docket NumberNo. 383,383
PartiesJulia D. KIRKMAN et al. v. MONTGOMERY COUNTY COUNCIL et al.
CourtCourt of Appeals of Maryland

John D. Bowman, Rockville, for appellants.

Lawrence E. Speelman, Silver Spring (I. John Ritterpusch, Robert A. Gingell and Ritterpusch & Gingell, Silver Spring, on the brief), for Urbana Development Corporation, part of appellees.

No brief filed on behalf of Montgomery County Council, other appellee.



The contract purchaser of an undeveloped tract (the Urbana property), some 35 acres northwest of Gaithersburg, in Montgomery County, knowing that the property had been zoned R-R (rural residential, single family, minimum area 20,000 square feet) by the zoning ordinance and comprehensive map adopted by the Montgomery County Council on 31 May 1958, decided to seek a reclassification of the property which would permit industrial use. The master plan for the vicinity of Gaithersburg adopted by the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission on 26 April 1961 had suggested that the property be given the higher classification of R-A (rural agricultural, minimum area two acres), but this recommendation was never adopted by the Council. Despite this, on 30 November 1965 the contract purchasers filed an application to have the property rezoned from R-R to I-1 (light industrial) or I-2 (heavy industrial).

On its northeast boundary, the Urbana property fronts for some 2,600 feet on a right of way of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. It is irregular in size, having a depth of some 950 feet at its widest part. Its southeast boundary (and only road frontage) is approximately 540 feet on Game Preserve Road, an unimproved and narrow road which runs northeast from Cloppers Road (Maryland Route 117) west of Gaithersburg. The property is crossed by two utility lines: a 250 foot right of way for a high voltage transmission line of Potomac Electric Power Company and an immediately adjoining 32 foot easement for a gas transmission line owned by Colonial Pipe Line Company.

The Montgomery Planning Board adopted the report of its technical staff and recommended disapproval of the application for rezoning. The staff had decided that the character of the neighborhood was rural; that mistake in the original zoning had not been demonstrated; and that there had been no change in the character of the neighborhood.

On hearing by the Montgomery County Council, sitting as the District Council, the application was granted as to 33.2 scres of the property, which were rezoned I-1. The Council withheld from reclassification that portion of the tract which lay within 40 feet of the center line of Game Preserve Road, in anticipation of the widening of that road. In its opinion, the Council said:

'The subject property is replete with encumbrances which indicate that the original zoning was erroneous. Gas-line easements, the PEPCO hi-line right-of-way and the presence of the B & O Railroad on the northern border of the subject tract make single-family development of the property most improbable. In addition, the rezoning of other tracts to the southeast has given an industrial flavor to the area.'

The Council's reference to the rezoning of tracts to the southeast relates to the reclassification of three tracts, made subsequent to the adoption of the zoning ordinance of 1958:

(i) On 29 March 1960, 89.25 acres, lying approximately 1,000 feet to the southeast of the Urbana property had been rezoned I-3 (industrial park) by the County Council (ii) On 29 September 1964, two tracts of 11.2 acres and 3.174 acres, respectively, located approximately 6,000 feet from the Urbana property had been rezoned I-1 (light industrial) by the District Council;

(iii) On 6 February 1965, the County Council reclassified as I-1 30.63 acres of the 89.25 acres which had been zoned I-3 in (i) above.

All of these tracts had been originally classified R-R by the 1958 ordinance.

The appellants, who are the owners of adjacent residential property across Game Preserve Road appealed to the Circuit Court for Montgomery County. From an order affirming the action of the District Council, this appeal was taken.

The appellants would have us reverse the order of the lower court on the grounds that the record before the District Council was not sufficient to support the reclassification, or, alternatively, because the action amounted to spot zoning if it were supported by sufficient evidence. In our view, the lower court reached the correct result in affirming the action of the District Council, and its order should not be disturbed.

We have often repeated the principles here applicable: courts have no power to rezone and may not substitute their judgment for that of the expertise of the zoning authority . Bosley v. Hospital for Consumptives, 246 Md. 197, 227 A.2d 746 (1967); Board of County Com'rs for Prince George's County v. Farr, 242 Md. 315, 218 A.2d 923 (1966). It has long been settled that the zoning authority's determination is correct if there were such legally sufficient evidence as would make the question fairly debatable. Mayor & City Council of Greenbelt v. Board of County Com'rs for Prince George's County, 247 Md. 670, 234 A.2d 140 (1967); Agneslane, inc. v. Lucas, 247 Md. 612, 233 A.2d 757 (1967). Further, the one who attacks the determination made by the authority must show that it was arbitrary or capricious. Agneslane, Inc. v. Lucas, supra; Bosley v. Hospital for Consumptives, supr...

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14 cases
  • Ligon v. State of Md., Civ. No. B-75-936.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. United States District Court (Maryland)
    • 23 Noviembre 1977
    ...was rezoned to I-1 (light industrial). The rezoning was affirmed by the Maryland Court of Appeals. Kirkman v. Montgomery County Council, 251 Md. 273, 247 A.2d 255 (1968). In November 1970, Urbana was dissolved and title to the land was transferred to plaintiffs as trustees for the partnersh......
  • Schultz v. Pritts, 153
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Maryland
    • 16 Julio 1981
    ...of evidence. Prince George's County v. Meininger, 264 Md. 148, 152, 285 A.2d 649 (1972), and Kirkman v. Montgomery County Council, 251 Md. 273, 277-78, 247 A.2d 255 (1968). All definitions of scintilla, at least in this context, are imprecise but if we assume it takes ten gossamers to make ......
  • Prince George's County Council v. Prestwick, Inc., 12
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Maryland
    • 19 Octubre 1971
    ...fairly debatable and thus require the court to accept the findings of the District Council on that issue. Kirkman v. Montgomery County, 251 Md. 273, 277, 247 A.2d 255 (1968); Agneslane Inc. v. Lucas, 247 Md. 612, 618, 619, 620, 233 A.2d 757 (1967); Board of County Commissioners of Prince Ge......
  • Chapman v. Montgomery County Council, 56
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Maryland
    • 18 Noviembre 1970
    ...note 2), 181 A.2d 671 (1962). Cf. also, Wells v. Pierpoint, 253 Md. 554, 557, 253 A.2d 749 (1969); Kirkman v. Montgomery County Council, 251 Md. 273, 275, 247 A.2d 255 (1968); Helfrich v. Mongelli, 248 Md. 498, 501-503, 237 A.2d 454 (1968); Shadynook Imp. Assn. v. Molloy, 232 Md. 265, 269, ......
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