EMERALD HILLS HOMEOWNERS' ASSOCIATION, INC.
WILLIAM E. PETERS, et ux
December 4, 2015
Certiorari to the Court of Special Appeals (Circuit Court for
Harford County). Case No.: 12-C-12-000722. Willaim O. Carr,
BY: Philip J. Kotschenreuther (Brown, Brown & Young, P.A.
of Bel Air, MD) on brief FOR PETITIONER.
BY: Ray M. Shepard (The Shepard Law Firm, LLC of Glen Burnie,
MD) on brief FOR RESPONDENTS.
BEFORE: Barbera, C.J., Battaglia, Greene, Adkins, McDonald,
Watts, Harrell, Jr., Glenn T. (Retired, Specially Assigned),
Md. 157] Adkins, J.
disputes are a prominent aspect of our state's legal
history. From Frederick Calvert, 6th Baron Baltimore,
commissioning Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon to complete a
survey to resolve a colonial boundary dispute, to the United
States Supreme Court's adjudication of an interstate
water dispute involving the Potomac River in
2003, Maryland has long recognized the
significance of the various rights that attach to property
ownership. In this case, we are asked to settle a dispute
over an easement--one of the most " complex and archaic
bod[ies] of American property law." Susan F. French,
Toward a Modern Law of Servitudes: Reweaving the Ancient
Strands, 55 S. Cal. L.Rev. 1261, 1261-62 (1982).
AND LEGAL PROCEEDINGS
1969, a corporation controlled by Victor Posner acquired a
64-acre parcel of land located near Bel Air, Maryland from
William and Margaret Sheppard. This property was next to
" Greenridge," a residential community developed by
Posner. In the deed of conveyance, the Sheppards retained
title to a parcel of a little less than an acre, which the
Court of Special Appeals and the parties refer to as "
Parcel 765." Parcel 765 does not front on a public road,
so the Sheppards reserved a non-exclusive right of way over a
50-foot wide and 100-foot long strip of land (the "
of Way Parcel" ). The Right of [446 Md. 158] Way Parcel
provides access to Southview Road, a public street in the
2000, Posner obtained approval from Harford County to develop
what is now called " Emerald Hills," a residential
community adjacent to the Greenridge subdivision. Posner
developed Emerald Hills in five phases and recorded a
subdivision plat, which he signed, in the land records for
each phase. As part of the development process,
Posner constructed Streamview Court, a 50-foot wide public
street partially aligned with Southview Road in the adjacent
Greenridge subdivision. Streamview Court ends in a cul-de-sac
so its terminus does not line up precisely with the Right of
Way Parcel or Parcel 765. The cul-de-sac, however, shares
points of intersection with each parcel. The parties and
Court of Special Appeals refer to this area between the two
parcels and the cul-de-sac as the " Triangular
765, the Right of Way Parcel, and the Triangular Parcel are
depicted on one of the five Emerald Hills subdivision plats
(the " Emerald Hills Subdivision Plat," "
Subdivision Plat," or the " Plat" ). Part of
the Plat is reproduced below.
Md. 159] Image Omitted
are three relevant markings on the Plat: grey shading,
forward slashes, and reversed slashes. The Right of Way
Parcel and the Triangular Parcel are shaded in a grey tone. A
note on the Plat indicates that this shading " denotes
pedestrian and emergency vehicle right-of-way & drainage
and utility easement." The Triangular Parcel is also
marked with forward slashes, " ////." A note states
that these slash marks " denote ingress & egress
easement for access to Parcel 765." Finally, the Right
of Way Parcel is marked with reversed slashes, "
****." The third
note on the Plat states that the reversed slash marks "
denote existing ingress and egress easement for Parcel 765
as per [the Sheppard Deed]." 
Plat also designates the Right of Way Parcel and Triangular
Parcel as " Passive Open Space"
areas. The Plat was recorded in the land
records of Harford County in 2000. In 2001, Posner,
individually and on behalf of Posner, LLC, executed and
recorded a Cross Easement Agreement (" Agreement"
). The Agreement recited that Posner was the owner [446 Md.
160] and developer of the Emerald Hills Subdivision and that
Posner, LLC was the owner and developer of the Greenridge
Subdivision. As a condition of preliminary plan approval for
the Emerald Hills Subdivision, the Harford County Department
of Planning and Zoning required that Posner and Posner, LLC
create reciprocal easements to permit lot owners in both
subdivisions to enjoy a common right to use and access the
open space areas, including the " Passive Open
Space" areas depicted on the Plat. The Cross Easement
Agreement grants the owners of the lots in each subdivision
reciprocal, but non-exclusive, rights of access and use of
the recreational areas and passive open space areas
designated on the Plat, as well as on the plats for other
phases of the Greenridge and Emerald Hill Subdivisions.
2006, title to the passive open spaces, including the
Triangular Parcel and the Right of Way Parcel, in the Emerald
Hills subdivision, was conveyed to the Emerald Hills
Homeowners' Association (" the Association"
). The deed conveying the property to the
Association did not contain a metes and bounds or other
description of the land conveyed. Instead, the deed referred
to the Plat and the other Emerald Hills subdivision plats.
Specifically, the deed stated that it passed title to "
[a]ll that property referred to as 'Passive Open
Space' . . . as shown on [the various Emerald Hills
subdivision plats] and recorded among the Land Records of
2009, Mr. and Mrs. Peters purchased Parcel 765 from William
Sheppard's estate " together with the rights,
privileges, appurtenances and advantages thereto belonging or
appertaining unto and to the proper use and benefit of [Mr.
and Mrs. Peters]." Mr. and Mrs. Peters then applied for
an access permit from Harford County for the installation of
a paved driveway on the Triangular Parcel. The County
approved [446 Md. 161] the application and Mr. and Mrs.
Peters began construction of a driveway on the Triangular
Parcel that would enable them to access Streamview Court.
Association filed suit seeking injunctive relief,
compensatory damages, and a declaratory judgment that the
Triangular Parcel was not subject to an easement for the
benefit of Parcel 765. Mr. and Mrs. Peters filed an answer
and a motion to dismiss or, in the alternative, for summary
judgment. The Association then filed a cross-motion for
summary judgment as to its claim for a declaratory judgment.
The Circuit Court granted the Association's
motion for summary judgment and declared that the Triangular
Parcel was not subject to an easement for the benefit of
Court of Special Appeals did not see it that way and it
reversed. The intermediate appellate court ruled that the
Plat established an express easement over the Triangular
Parcel in favor of Parcel 765 and that the Cross Easement
Agreement had no effect on this easement. The Association
appealed and we granted its Petition for Writ of Certiorari.