Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission v. Chadwick

Decision Date11 September 1979
Docket NumberNo. 2,MARYLAND-NATIONAL,2
Citation405 A.2d 241,286 Md. 1
CourtMaryland Court of Appeals

Wilhelmina G. Douglas, Associate Gen. Counsel and Sanford E. Wool, Deputy Gen. Counsel, Silver Spring (Arthur S. Drea, Jr., Gen. Counsel, Silver Spring, on the brief), for appellants.

Stephen H. Sachs, Atty. Gen. and Judith A. Armold, Asst. Atty. Gen., Baltimore, on the brief, amicus curiae.

Harry W. Lerch, Bethesda (Ronald L. Early and Lerch, Early & Roseman, Bethesda, on the brief), for appellees.


MURPHY, Chief Judge.

The central issue in this case is whether the appellant, Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (the Commission), by placing the appellees' land in public "reservation" without their consent for a period not to exceed three years, as authorized by § 50-31(a) of the Montgomery County Code (1972, 1977 Repl.Vol.), unconstitutionally deprived the landowners of the use of their property without payment of just compensation.


The Commission is a state agency authorized by Maryland Code (1957, 1978 Repl.Vol.), Art. 66D, § 5-101(a) and (b) to acquire, by purchase or condemnation, land or other property within the Maryland-Washington Metropolitan District, comprising Montgomery and Prince George's Counties, for "parks, parkways, forests, streets, . . . (for) the purposes of public recreation or the construction of public recreation centers . . . ." The Commission is empowered by § 7-108 to prepare general and master plans for the development of the regional district, and it is responsible for coordinating planning, zoning and recreational activities within Prince George's and Montgomery Counties. See generally O & B, Inc. v. Md.-Nat'l Cap. P. & P., 279 Md. 459, 369 A.2d 553 (1977).

The Commission is required by § 2-118(a) to submit to the county executives of the two counties an annual capital and operating budget containing, among other items, proposed expenditures for property acquisitions. In addition, it is required to prepare a Capital Improvement Program (CIP), which is an annually updated plan of "all programmed parkland acquisition, all major parkland improvement, development and major acquisition of equipment" to be completed over a six-year period. § 2-118(b). The CIP is submitted to the governing bodies of the two counties which may adopt, amend or modify it after conducting a public hearing. Although the CIP identifies all lands scheduled for acquisition within the six-year period, no allocation of funds for such acquisitions is included in the Commission's annual capital budget beyond those scheduled for the first of the six-year program.

Under § 7-115(a), the Commission's approval is required before any subdivision plat within the regional district may be recorded in the land records of Montgomery or Prince George's Counties. The Commission is empowered under § 7-116(a)(4) to prepare subdivision regulations which may provide for

"the reservation of lands for schools and other public buildings and for parks, playgrounds, and other public purposes, provided no reservation of land for traffic, recreation or any other public purposes as herein provided shall continue for longer than three years without the written approval of all persons holding or otherwise owning any legal or equitable interest in the property; and provided further that the properties reserved for public use shall be exempt from all State, county, and local taxes during the period."

Pursuant to the state enabling legislation, Montgomery County adopted an ordinance authorizing the placement of land in public reservation. Under the provisions of the ordinance § 50-31(a) of the County Code the Commission's Planning Board for Montgomery County, which is authorized to administer subdivision regulations in that jurisdiction, is required to "refer all preliminary subdivision plans to the general plan or parts thereof, adopted or proposed or studies related thereto, or shall otherwise determine the need for reserving for public use any of the land included in the preliminary subdivision plan." The ordinance specifies that reservations "for a period of three years may be required for road or street rights of way, public school and building sites, parks, playgrounds or other recreational areas or other public purposes." The ordinance also provides that placement of land in public reservation shall be by resolution of the Commission, which shall state the time, not over three years, that the reservation will be effective.

Under the provisions of the ordinance, property in reservation is exempt from all state, county and local taxes, § 50-31(a)(3). It is also subject to restrictions on its use, as detailed in § 50-31(a)(5):

"(5) PRESERVATION. During the reservation period, no building or structure shall be erected upon the land so reserved. No trees, topsoil or cover shall be removed or destroyed; no grading shall be done; no storm drainage structure shall be so built as to discharge water on the reservation except for storm drainage construction in accordance with a storm drainage plan approved by the department of public works or the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission; Nor shall any land so reserved be put to any use whatsoever, except upon written approval of the board. Nothing in this section shall be construed as prohibiting the owner from removing weeds or trash from property so reserved, nor from selling when approved by the board such parts of the land as may be necessary for water, sewer or road right of way for public agencies." (Emphasis added.)

Nothing in the state enabling act, or in Montgomery County's implementing ordinance, obligates the Commission to acquire property placed by it in reservation, either during or at the expiration of the reservation period. No provision is made for payment of compensation to the property owner for the time that his property is held in reservation, whether or not it is ultimately acquired by the Commission.


Appellees George Chadwick, Jr. and members of his family (the Chadwicks) own a 105-acre tract of land located on the south side of Old Baltimore Road and on the west side of Ten Mile Creek, north of Boyds, Maryland. The property is zoned R-200, which permits one-half acre lots, and has road access by Ten Mile Creek Road. The Chadwicks purchased the property in 1965 as part of a tract containing 159.71 acres. When it was determined, as part of the Clarksburg Master Plan, that approximately 55 acres of the Chadwick tract were within the Commission's park take line for the expansion of Seneca Regional Park and proposed Lake Site No. 3, the Commission placed this acreage in reservation in 1973 with the consent of the Chadwicks. After the expiration of the three-year reservation of the 55-acre tract, the Chadwicks filed a preliminary plan of subdivision for the entire 159-acre tract. The Commission thereupon purchased the 55 acres previously held in reservation.

The Chadwicks thereafter renewed their request for subdivision approval of the preliminary plan for the remainder of the tract; it complied fully with all requirements of law at the time it was presented to the Board on January 26, 1978. The Board's staff recommended that the property be placed in reservation because it was within the Commission's park take line for Little Seneca Regional Park and within the limits of Lake Site No. 3, as shown on the Final Draft Boyds Master Plan.

On April 6, 1978, the Chadwicks' plan of subdivision was denied and the Commission placed the property in reservation for a period not to exceed three years, as authorized by § 50-31 of the County Code. The Commission's action was taken in accordance with the Board's Staff recommendation, and because construction of the dam site at Lake Site No. 3 would flood a portion of Ten Mile Creek Road, in effect denying access to the road serving the proposed subdivision. By the Boyds Master Plan, adopted by the Montgomery County Council on May 9, 1978, the Chadwicks' property was shown to lie within the Commission's park take line and within the limits of Lake Site No. 3. On May 15, 1978, the Montgomery County Council adopted the Commission's CIP, which recommended total acquisition of all lands, including the Chadwicks' property, within the park take line for Little Seneca Regional Park during the succeeding three-year period (Fiscal Years '79, '80, and '81).

On April 25, 1978, the Chadwicks filed suit in the Circuit Court for Montgomery County, seeking the issuance of a writ of mandamus directing the Commission to approve their preliminary subdivision plan, and requesting a declaratory judgment that the reservation of their property and any statute requiring such reservation were unconstitutional as a taking of property without payment of just compensation. The court (McAuliffe, J.) held that the Commission's resolution placing the Chadwicks' property in public reservation under § 50-31 of the County Code was unconstitutional and it ordered the Commission to approve the preliminary subdivision plan. In so concluding, the court noted that the State "may not indefinitely withhold permission for the otherwise permitted development of the land simply because long-range plans provide for different use." It analyzed the Commission's action in terms of its reasonableness as an exercise of police power, and weighed the landowners' deprivation of use of their property against the public interest sought to be served by the restriction. The court found it "crystal clear that (the Chadwicks) have been deprived of all reasonable use of their property during the period of the reservation." It recognized, however, that a total deprivation of use may be reasonable "if for a very limited period of time." It therefore focused upon the period of the reservation,...

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