Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church of United Church of Christ of Stemmers Run v. State Highway Administration

Decision Date08 January 1976
Docket NumberNo. 96,96
CourtMaryland Court of Appeals

Wilson K. Barnes, Baltimore (A. Raymond Bevans, Jr., Towson, on the brief), for appellants.

John J. Schuchman, Sp. Atty., Baltimore (Francis B. Burch, Atty. Gen., J. Michael McWilliams, Asst. Atty. Gen. and Nolan H. Rogers, Sp. Asst. Atty. Gen., Baltimore, on the brief), for appellees.

Argued before MURPHY, C. J., and SINGLEY, SMITH, DIGGES and LEVINE, JJ.


The appellants, Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church (the Church); Henry Betz; Edward and Amelia Betz; John and Lavinia Betz, and Clarence McNeal (hereinafter collectively referred to as the property owners), all own property in the 7100 and 7200 blocks of Golden Ring Road, located in the eastern part of Baltimore County. Feeling aggrieved by the action of the State Highway Administration (SHA) 1 in recently extending the Baltimore County Beltway and Windlass and Southeast Freeways, the property owners filed a bill of complaint in the Circuit Court for Baltimore County on 12 June 1975, seeking temporary and permanent injunctions against SHA. Also joined as defendants were the Department of Transportation (the Department), of which the SHA is a part; Harry R. Hughes, Secretary of the Department; and Bernard M. Evans, administrator of SHA. The defendants demurred to the bill of complaint, as amended, and following a hearing in the Circuit Court for Baltimore County, the demurrer was sustained on 23 June 1975 without leave to amend. The property owners appealed to the Court of Special Appeals, and we granted certiorari before argument was heard in that Court.

As this is an appeal from the sustaining of a demurrer, we are bound, as was the chancellor, to assume as true all well-pleaded facts in the bill of complaint and attached exhibits together with any reasonable inferences which may be drawn from those facts, Citizens Planning & Housing Ass'n v. Baltimore County, 273 Md. 333, 337-38, 329 A.2d 681, 683-84 (1974) and cases there cited.

Prior to the construction of the Baltimore County Beltway, Golden Ring Road was an east-west thoroughfare connecting the Essex and Rosedale sections of Baltimore County. The property owners' properties are located along the north side of Golden Ring Road just west of its intersection with the newly constructed Kelso Avenue, at or near the area marked with a cross. 2 The property owners' bill of complaint describes this area as a 'major flood plain' of Stemmers Run, with the result that Golden Ring Road is 'regularly under water' and impassable to vehicular traffic at the points where Golden Ring and Race Roads span Stemmers Run by bridges, to the east of the properties in question. Thus, whenever the bridges become impassable, the only access to or egress from these properties would be from or to the west. It is the interference with this access and egress which is the gravamen of the property owners' complaint.

The bill of complaint alleges that when the Beltway was originally constructed, Golden Ring Road was dead-ended at Pulaski Highway, a few miles to the west of appellants' properties, thus rendering it no longer possible to travel from the properties through to Pulaski Highway. At this point in time, however, Golden Ring Road became an extension of the Beltway, providing access to the properties from the west.

More recently, SHA undertook to extend the Beltway by constructing the Southeast Freeway and, in so doing, discontinued the use of Golden Ring Road as an extension of the Beltway. Through acquisition and condemnation, SHA constructed Kelso Avenue and connected it by ingress and egress ramps to the Beltway. These ramps, therefore, provided ingress and egress for the properties from and to the west, because Kelso Avenue connected with Golden Ring Road at a point just east of the property owned by the Church. A portion of the land upon which Kelso Avenue now lies was acquired from the Church and Henry Betz. The bill of complaint alleges that SHA assured Betz that 'the same or equivalent access' would continue to be provided because SHA was aware of the 'regular' flooding condition further to the east.

The act by the SHA which is complained of occurred recently when Windlass and Southeast Freeways were interconnected with the Beltway less than a mile to the southeast of the Kelso Avenue ramps. SHA removed the egress ramp and closed the ingress ramp to vehicular traffic, thereby effectively eliminating access to the property owners' properties from the west and egress from the properties to the Beltway. 3 The bill of complaint alleges that as a result, whenever Stemmers Run overflows, and the Golden Ring Road and Race Road bridges become impassable, all access to the properties is cut off, a condition which is alleged to occur 'regularly.'

The thrust of the bill of complaint is essentially twofold: first, it alleges facts which would warrant a conclusion that SHA, the Department, Hughes and Evans acted arbitrarily and capriciously; and second, it alleges that the closing of the Kelso Avenue ramps constitutes a taking of the property owners' properties without just compensation in direct contravention of the due process clause of the fourteenth amendment to the Constitution of the United States and Article III, § 40 of the Maryland Constitution.

We regard this first allegation that the appellees acted arbitrarily and capriciously, which in the circumstances of this case, must be taken as true for purposes of the demurrer, as dispositive of the case at this time. The property owners allege that they were assured at all stages of the construction of the Beltway that their access to the west would not be cut off, because SHA was well aware of the frequent flooding problem. By disregarding these assurances, the defendants are alleged to have acted arbitrarily and capriciously despite the wide discretion given them to plan and construct...

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8 cases
  • State Dept. of Assessments and Taxation v. Clark, 23
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Maryland
    • November 4, 1977
    ...by an administrative agency which are arbitrary, illegal, capricious or unreasonable." And in Zion Evang. Luth. Ch. v. St. Hwy. Adm., 276 Md. 630, 635, 350 A.2d 125 (1976), we noted that "it has frequently been held that an allegedly arbitrary, capricious or illegal decision by an administr......
  • Krieger v. J. E. Greiner Co., Inc., 48
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Maryland
    • September 1, 1977
    ...pleaded as well as all inferences which can reasonably be drawn from those well pleaded facts. Zion Evang. Luth. Ch. v. St. Hwy. Adm., 276 Md. 630, 632, 350 A.2d 125 (1976); Schwartz v. Merchants Mort. Co., 272 Md. 305, 307-08, 322 A.2d Page 53 544 (1974). The facts alleged in the declarati......
  • Silverman v. Maryland Deposit Ins. Fund Corp.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Maryland
    • September 12, 1989
    ...Review Bd. for Prince George's County, 288 Md. 254, 418 A.2d 205 (1980); Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church v. State Highway Admin., 276 Md. 630, 350 A.2d 125 (1976); and Department of Natural Resources v. Linchester Sand & Gravel Corp., 274 Md. 211, Page 325 334 A.2d 514 (1975). During that ......
  • Hoffman v. Key Federal Sav. and Loan Ass'n, 87
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Maryland
    • September 13, 1979
    ...375, 382, 384 A.2d 729 (1978); Krieger v. J. E. Greiner Co., 282 Md. 50, 52, 382 A.2d 1069 (1978); Zion Evang. Luth. Ch. v. St. Hwy. Adm., 276 Md. 630, 632, 350 A.2d 125 (1976); and Schwartz v. Merchants Mort. Co., 272 Md. 305, 307-08, 322 A.2d 544 In considering this case we first note two......
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