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Boomer v. Waterman Family Limited Partnership

Court of Special Appeals of Maryland

March 2, 2017

KATHLEEN B. BOOMER, ET AL.
v.
WATERMAN FAMILY LIMITED PARTNERSHIP, ET AL.

          Berger, Shaw Geter, Eyler, James R., (Senior Judge, Specially Assigned) JJ. [*]

          OPINION

          Eyler, James R., J.

         The issue on this appeal is whether the Board of County Commissioners of Queen Anne's County ("the County Commissioners") had the authority to rescind a previously adopted ordinance in which they had approved the rezoning of a parcel of land that had been annexed and rezoned by the Town of Queenstown. We answer that question in the affirmative.

         On November 25, 2014, by a vote of three to two, the County Commissioners adopted Resolution 14-31, which approved Queenstown's new zoning classification for the annexed parcel that allowed land uses substantially different, or at a substantially higher density, from what previously had been allowed. On December 2, 2014, four County Commissioners, elected at the 2014 general election, were sworn into office. On December 9, 2014, by a vote of four to one, the County Commissioners adopted Resolution 14-33, which withdrew, rescinded, voided, and nullified Resolution 14-31.

         In response to the adoption of Resolution 14-33, the Town Commissioners of Queenstown ("the Town Commissioners") and the Waterman Family Limited Partnership ("Waterman"), the owner of the subject property, filed, in the Circuit Court for Queen Anne's County, a petition for judicial review and request for a writ of administrative mandamus. Waterman also filed a declaratory judgment action in the same court against the County Commissioners. In both cases, the Town Commissioners and Waterman alleged that the County Commissioners lacked authority to rescind Resolution 14-31. The two cases were consolidated. Kathleen Boomer, Marie McNurlan, Paul A. McNurlan, Stacy L. Swartwood, and the Queen Anne's Conservation Association ("QACA") intervened as interested parties, all of whom were aligned with the County Commissioners.

          After a hearing on July 21, 2015, the circuit court entered summary judgment in favor of Waterman and the Town Commissioners and declared Resolution 14-33 "null, void and of no legal force and effect" on the ground that the County Commissioners lacked the "authority to repeal or rescind [Resolution] 14-31." In addition, the court granted the relief requested in the petition for judicial review and the request for a writ of administrative mandamus filed by the Town Commissioners and Waterman. The County Commissioners and the interested parties filed motions for reconsideration. On September 30, 2015, the court denied the motions. This timely appeal followed. Subsequently, the County Commissioners voluntarily withdrew from the appeal. As a result, the parties before us are the interested parties, whom we shall refer to collectively as "the QACA appellants, " and the Town Commissioners and Waterman, appellees.

         ISSUE PRESENTED

         The sole issue presented by the QACA appellants for our consideration is whether the County Commissioners had the authority to rescind or repeal Resolution 14-31. For the reasons set forth below, we hold that the County Commissioners did have that authority, and as a result, we shall reverse the judgments of the circuit court.

         FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         The basic facts are not in dispute. Waterman is the owner of approximately 140 acres of land in Queen Anne's County, commonly referred to as the Wheatlands Farm property, located immediately south of U.S. Route 50 and across from a commercial development known as the Queenstown Outlets. Prior to the events that are the subject of this appeal, the property was zoned Countryside, a designation that permitted agricultural and low density uses. On June 25, 2014, Waterman filed a petition with the Town of Queenstown seeking to have the Wheatlands Farm property annexed into the town. The goal, after annexation, was to seek rezoning. After a public hearing, the Town Commissioners voted to annex the property. Thereafter, the Town Commissioners adopted an ordinance rezoning the Wheatlands Farm property from Countryside to Planned Regional Commercial, which permitted commercial and high density uses. The effective date of that ordinance was dependent upon a waiver by the County Commissioners of the existing zoning density pursuant to Md. Code (2013 Repl. Vol., 2014 Supp.), §4-416(b) of the Local Government Article ("LG").[1] The statute provided that the property could not be rezoned to permit development for uses substantially different from previously authorized uses or uses at a substantially higher density, for a period of five years, unless the County Commissioners granted express approval and waived the five-year period.

         After a public hearing, on November 25, 2014, the County Commissioners passed Resolution 14-31, which granted the express approval needed to allow for rezoning to a classification that was substantially different and at a higher density. The approval of Resolution 14-31 allowed development consistent with the "Planned Regional Commercial" classification without having to wait the five-year period referred to in LG §4-416.

         On December 2, 2014, the newly elected commissioners took office. On December 9, 2014, the County Commissioners adopted Resolution 14-33, which rescinded the express approval that previously had been granted. In response to that action, Waterman and the Town Commissioners filed the court actions described above.

         Ultimately, the circuit court concluded that the County Commissioners "had no authority to repeal and rescind Resolution 14-31." On July 21, 2015, the court granted summary judgment in favor of Waterman and the Town Commissioners, and granted the relief requested in the petition for judicial review and writ of administrative mandamus. It also issued a declaratory judgment providing that "Resolution 14-33 adopted by the County Commissioners of Queen Anne's County on December 9, 2014, . . . hereby is declared to be null, void and of no legal force and effect."

         After the court denied motions for reconsideration, the County Commissioners and the QACA appellants noted appeals to this Court. Subsequently, the ...


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