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Spaw, LLC v. City of Annapolis

Court of Appeals of Maryland

March 27, 2017

SPAW, LLC
v.
CITY OF ANNAPOLIS

          Argued: September 8, 2016

         Circuit Court for Anne Arundel County Case Nos. 02-C-13-181644, 02-C-13-181663

          Barbera, C.J. Greene, Adkins, McDonald, Watts, Hotten, Getty, JJ.

          OPINION

          Getty, J.

         In this case we examine the enforcement powers available to a municipality under its historic preservation zoning ordinance and whether the City of Annapolis ("Annapolis" or the "City"), Respondent, exceeded those enforcement powers when a recalcitrant property owner failed to file the required application for a Certificate of Approval prior to commencing and completing a building rehabilitation project. Spaw, LLC ("Spaw"), Petitioner, a Delaware limited liability company, owns and manages an apartment building located at 2 Maryland Avenue in Annapolis, Maryland, which is within the designated historic district under the zoning ordinance of the City.

         Ms. Lisa Craig, the Chief of the Annapolis Historic Preservation Commission ("Commission"), issued two historic preservation municipal infraction citations to Spaw alleging that Spaw replaced historic wood windows with vinyl windows without a Certificate of Approval from the Commission. Spaw requested a trial, and the first trial took place at the District Court of Maryland, sitting in Anne Arundel County. After the district court found in favor of the City, Spaw appealed the decision of the district court to the Circuit Court of Maryland for Anne Arundel County. In the de novo appeal, Spaw admitted to replacing historic wood windows with vinyl windows without prior approval by the Commission, as required by law. Based upon this admission, the court granted summary judgment to the City.

         Spaw filed a timely petition for a writ of certiorari with this Court, which we granted. In summary, Spaw argues: (1) the circuit court trial for a historic preservation municipal citation should have been conducted as a criminal proceeding, not a civil proceeding; (2) the two historic preservation municipal citations should have been dismissed for generality and a lack of specificity; (3) the statute of limitations precluded the City's enforcement of the historic preservation zoning violations; (4) the relief awarded was overly broad; and (5) the circuit court should have granted Spaw a new trial or amended the judgment in light of recent amendments to Maryland Rule 2-501.

         We hold that historic preservation municipal citations are civil and in this case were not barred by the statute of limitations. In addition, the citations were sufficiently specific and the relief was proper. We are also unpersuaded by Spaw's contention that the circuit court abused its discretion by not granting Spaw's motion for a new trial or in the alternative to amend the judgment. Thus we affirm the judgment of the circuit court.

         I

         Background

         A. Maryland's Statutory Framework for Historic Preservation Zoning

         In 1963, the General Assembly enacted Maryland's first statute for historic preservation zoning. See 1963 Md. Laws, Ch. 874. The Historic Area Zoning Act was originally codified as Maryland Code, Art. 66B § 8.01 et seq. Currently codified at Maryland Code, Land Use Article ("LU") § 8-101 et seq., the law enables local governments to regulate the preservation of historically significant sites and structures within their jurisdiction. LU § 8-104.

         It is important to note that the authority for historic preservation zoning derives from this enabling act of the General Assembly and not from the general police power, so a jurisdiction's authority is limited to the powers provided in the Historic Area Zoning Act. See generally Mayor & Alderman of Annapolis v. Anne Arundel Cty., 271 Md. 265 (1974) (examining the legislative history of the Historic Area Zoning Act); see also 74 Md. Op. Atty. Gen. 176, 1989 WL 503614, at *1 (Mar. 15, 1989) (stating municipal authority is limited to powers in the Historic Area Zoning Act); 73 Md. Op. Atty. Gen. 238, 1988 WL 481988, at *4 (Mar. 23, 1988) ("[T]he municipal zoning power may be exercised only to the extent of the General Assembly's grant."). Thus the statutory framework is separate and distinct from the other zoning provisions in the Land Use Article.

         Traditional zoning laws focus on the use of the land, while historic preservation zoning laws are designed to preserve the external architectural features and historical character of properties. The concept of historic area zoning is summarized as follows:

In brief, the zoning of historic areas requires that whenever an application is made for a permit for the erection of any new building or for the alteration of or additions to any existing building within the historic district, the plans therefor so far as they relate to appearance, color, texture or materials, and architectural design of the exterior thereof must be submitted to a commission for review and approval, and in this manner to prevent the intrusion of any building which would be destructive of the nature of the district.

Faulkner v. Town of Chestertown, 290 Md. 214, 224 (1981) (quoting 1 A. Rathkopf, The Law of Zoning and Planning § 15.01 (4th ed. 1975)). Historic area zoning does not displace traditional zoning. 62 Md. Op. Atty. Gen. 490, 1977 WL 35808 at *3 (Sept. 6, 1977). The historic area zoning is an overlay zone on the traditional zoning laws, which creates additional regulations for property owners within that area. Id.

         Under the Maryland statute, local jurisdictions are authorized to enact ordinances to "regulate the construction, reconstruction, alteration, moving, and demolition of sites or structures of historical, archaeological, or architectural significance . . . [and] sites or structures within districts[.]" LU § 8-104(a). The purpose of such ordinances are to:

(1) safeguard the heritage of the local jurisdiction by preserving sites, structures, or districts that reflect elements of cultural, social, economic, political, archaeological, or architectural history;
(2) stabilize and improve the property values of those sites, structures, or districts;
(3) foster civic beauty;
(4) strengthen the local economy; and
(5) promote the preservation and appreciation of those sites, structures, and districts for the education and welfare of the residents of each local jurisdiction.

LU § 8-104(b). Thus, to accomplish these purposes, local jurisdictions are permitted to "designate boundaries for sites, structures, and districts that are considered to be of historic, archaeological, or architectural significance[.]" LU § 8-105. Furthermore, local jurisdictions are authorized to "create a historic district commission or historic preservation commission" consisting of at least five members, a majority of which are residents of the local jurisdiction creating the commission. LU §§ 8-201, 8-202(a). The members are required to have "a demonstrated special interest, special knowledge, or professional or academic training in" areas such as history, architecture, architectural history, or historic preservation. LU § 8-202(b)(1). Local jurisdictions can establish and adopt additional qualifications for its commission members. LU § 8-202(b)(2). The members are appointed by the local jurisdiction's appointing authority to serve three-year staggered terms and can be reappointed. LU § 8-202(c).

         A commission is required to "adopt rules and regulations necessary for the conduct of its business." LU § 8-203(a). An interested person, or his or her representative, has the right to "appear and be heard at a public hearing that a commission conducts." LU § 8-203(b). A commission's powers and duties are outlined in LU §§ 8-203 through 8-501.

         At issue in this case is a commission's authority to review and approve applications for changes to sites and structures. See LU § 8-302. Pursuant to LU 8-302(a), a person is required to submit an application with the commission prior to "constructing, reconstructing, altering, moving, or demolishing a site or structure located within a locally designated district if any exterior changes are involved that would affect the historic, archaeological, or architectural significance of the site or structure" and any of the changes are "visible or intended to be visible from a public way." The commission is then required to review the application in conformance with LU § 8-303, which requires the commission to consider the application in light of its own guidelines, adopted under LU § 8-301, and the four additional considerations outlined in the statute while limiting its review to the exterior features of the property.[1] The commission can then approve or reject the application. LU § 8-302(b). The commission's decision is required to be filed with the local jurisdiction's building inspector-in the form of a "certificate of the commission's approval, approval with conditions, or modification, or written notice of rejection of an application or plan submitted to the commission for review." LU § 8-306(a). If the commission does not act within 45 days after the date the completed application was filed, then the application is deemed approved unless the application is withdrawn or an extension is agreed upon by the applicant and the commission. LU § 8-307. If the applicant is not satisfied by the commission's decision then it may appeal the decision. LU § 8-308. However, an applicant cannot begin work on a project nor can a building inspector issue a permit until the commission submits its certificate of approval, approval with conditions, or modifications. LU § 8-306(a).

         If there is a historic preservation zoning violation, then a commission can request the enforcement authority of the jurisdiction to seek any of the remedies and penalties permitted by law. LU § 8-501. Enforcement of historic area zoning is similar to traditional zoning enforcement. See LU § 11-101(a). Local governments have the authority to institute an action to remedy a violation, to impose civil penalties, or to punish the violator. LU §§ 11-102, 11-103.

         If there is a civil zoning violation, then the relevant sections of the Maryland Code are LU §§ 11-201 through 11-209. For a civil zoning violation, a citation may be issued to inform the offender of his or her violation, and he or she may elect to stand trial. LU §§ 11-203, 11-204. The trial is to be conducted like that for a municipal infraction under Maryland Code, Local Government Article ("LG") §§ 6-108 through 6-115. LU § 11-206. If a district court determines that there was a violation of the historic preservation zoning laws, then it is "not a criminal conviction and does not impose any of the civil disabilities ordinarily imposed by a criminal conviction." LU § 11-209.

         The Local Government Article describes the requirements and procedures for a civil zoning violation proceeding. Under LG § 6-108, the county State's Attorney, or an attorney designated by the county, is authorized to prosecute zoning violations and enter a nolle prosequi or place the case on the stet docket. The civil evidentiary standards apply and the government has the burden to prove its case by clear and convincing evidence. LG §§ 6-109(a)(3), (5). The defendant in a zoning violation case can plead guilty or not guilty, cross-examine witnesses, produce evidence, testify, and be represented by counsel at his or her expense. LG §§ 6-109(a)(2), (4). If the court determines that the defendant is guilty of a zoning violation then the court can order the defendant to pay the fine and court costs or order abatement of the violation. LG §6-110. However, LG § 6-115 reiterates LU § 11-209 and states that the court's finding of guilty "is not a criminal conviction for any purpose." LG § 6-115.

         The statutory framework for historic preservation zoning has been upheld in multiple cases before Maryland's appellate courts. In fact, this Court considered its first historic preservation case four years before the United States Supreme Court upheld historic preservation zoning in the landmark case of Penn Cent. Transp. Co. v. City of New York, 438 U.S. 104 (1978). Mayor & Alderman of Annapolis, 271 Md. at 265. In Penn Central the Supreme Court affirmed a decision by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission, and held that, "States and cities may enact land-use restrictions or controls to enhance the quality of life by preserving the character and desirable aesthetic features of a city." 438 U.S. at 129. However, the Supreme Court also stated that this authority is not absolute and may constitute a "taking" if it goes too far-e.g. "has an unduly harsh impact upon the owner's use of the property." Id. at 127.

         In Mayor & Alderman of Annapolis, Judge Wilson Barnes, writing for the majority, provided an extensive analysis of the General Assembly's passage of the Historic Area Zoning Act of 1963 and upheld the constitutionality of the state enabling statute. 271 Md. at 280-287, 294. Further, the Court held that Anne Arundel County was subject to the jurisdiction of the Annapolis Historic Preservation Commission. 271 Md. at 275. Anne Arundel County planned to demolish Mt. Moriah African Methodist Episcopal Church-a building within the historic district and owned by the County. Id. at 269. The Commission denied the application for the permit after a hearing where substantial evidence was presented regarding the historical and architectural merits of the building. Id. at 270-72. Anne Arundel County appealed the decision, arguing that it was not subject to the jurisdiction of the Commission. Id. at 273. This Court affirmed the Commission and held that the primary purpose of the legislation would be frustrated if everyone-private citizens and governmental bodies-were not bound to preserve the exterior of buildings with historic or architectural value. Id. at 291-92.

         This Court recognized the broad applicability of the historic preservation zoning laws in Faulkner, 290 Md. at 226. In Faulkner, the property owners-Mr. and Ms. Faulkner-performed work that was not included in the permit approved by Chestertown's Historic District Commission. Faulkner, 290 Md. at 218. After receiving complaints about the unauthorized work performed, the commission directed the Faulkners to correct the work performed outside of the scope of the permit. Id. The Faulkners refused and argued at trial that the commission was without authority to control their property since it did not have any "known architectural or historical significance." Id. at 221. This Court held that "[s]ince the Faulkners' building was located within one of Chestertown's historic districts" it was "subject to the jurisdiction of the Commission notwithstanding the fact that it had no architectural or historical significance." Id. at 226. As a result, if the Faulkners wished to make a change to the exterior of their property, then it was incumbent upon them to include all of the proposed changes they wished to make in their application for a Certificate of Approval. Id. at 227.

         In Casey v. Mayor & City Council of Rockville, 400 Md. 259, 289 (2007), this Court held that economic feasibility was not a required consideration under the governing statute when determining whether to designate a property as historic and that the designation did not constitute a "taking." The Rockville Historic Preservation Commission designated the property at issue in Casey as historic because of "its link to prominent historical figures in the local government, as well as its architectural appeal." Casey, 400 Md. at 270. The property owner challenged the historic designation arguing that the economic feasibility and financial hardship should have been considered. Id. at 279. This Court concluded that the statute was "silent as to whether the local legislative body, in designating properties as historic areas, must consider the economic feasibility of preservation of a property and any financial hardship to the landowner." Id. at 288. As a result, the Court concluded that the Rockville Historic Preservation Commission was not required to consider those factors. Id. at 289.

         B. Historic Preservation Zoning in the City of Annapolis

         Pursuant to its authority under the Maryland Historic Area Zoning Act, the Annapolis City Council passed a historic preservation zoning ordinance in February 1968 subject to referendum by the City's voters. Mayor & Alderman of Annapolis, 271 Md. at 269. At the municipal election of May 20, 1969, the voters ratified the ordinance by a two-to-one margin in favor of approval.[2]

         The Annapolis Historic District Design Manual, "Building in the Fourth Century, " summarizes the goals of the historic preservation zoning ordinance "to safeguard Annapolis' heritage as reflected in its three centuries of historic architecture and its broadly visible waterfront." Building in the Fourth Century: Annapolis Historic District Design Manual 1, 8 (1994, updated and expanded 2011), https://perma.cc/VDY8-6LPS [hereinafter Annapolis Historic District Design Manual]. The boundaries of the designated historic district are established by the ordinance and encompass most of the streets and land area that comprised the colonial development of the City. Annapolis City Code ("ACC") § 21.56.030.

         The City's historic preservation zoning ordinance specifically states the following purposes:

[T]o preserve and enhance the quality of life and to safeguard the historical and cultural heritage of Annapolis by preserving sites, structures, or districts which reflect the elements of the City's cultural, social, economic, political, archaeological, or architectural history; to strengthen the local economy; to stabilize and improve property values in and around such historic areas; to foster civic beauty, and to preserve and promote the preservation and appreciation of historic sites, structures and districts for the education and welfare of the citizens of the City.

ACC § 21.56.010(C).

         The Commission created by the City is a regulatory review board that ensures compliance with the historic preservation zoning laws. ACC § 21.08.060(A). The Commission serves the City's Historic Preservation Division, which is located within the Department of Planning and Zoning. The Commission is comprised of seven members, appointed by the Mayor of Annapolis and confirmed by the Annapolis City Council, serving three-year terms without compensation. ACC §§ 21.08.060(B), (C). The members are required to be residents of Annapolis and possess a demonstrated special interest, specific knowledge, or professional or academic training in such fields as history, architecture, architectural history, planning, archaeology, anthropology, curation, conservation, landscape architecture, historic preservation, urban design, or related disciplines. ACC § 21.08.060(B).

         The focus of historic preservation zoning is to consider applications for exterior property alterations within the historic district "pursuant to the specific standards established in the enabling law." 62 Md. Op. Atty. Gen. 490, 1977 WL 35808, at *7. As a result, property owners are required to obtain permission before making any changes by applying for a Certificate of Approval. ACC § 21.08.060(E)(4). Property owners and occupants-a person, individual, firm, or corporation-proposing to construct or change their property within the historic district are required to file an application for a Certificate of Approval to receive permission from the Commission before undertaking any changes that "would affect the historic, archaeological, architectural, or cultural significance of a site or structure within a designated district or a designated landmark, site, or structure any portion of which is visible or intended to be visible from a public way[.]" ACC § 21.56.040. This includes "construction, alteration, reconstruction, rehabilitation, restoration, moving, or demolition of a designated landmark, site, or structure or a site or structure within a designated historic district[.]" ACC § 21.56.040. Property owners can receive a municipal infraction citation for violating the historic preservation zoning ordinances by, among other things, willfully performing or allowing to be performed any work without first obtaining a Certificate of Approval. ACC § 21.56.120(A).

         Historic preservation violators who receive a citation are subject to fines and the City is permitted[3] to institute an action to prevent, enjoin, abate, or remove the violation. ACC §§ 21.56.120(A); 1.20.070. The City Code also states, "Each and every day that the violation continues shall be deemed a separate offense. Violators may be assessed a fine as established by the City Council for each day that the violation continues." ACC § 21.56.120(A).

         C. Factual Background

         This case began when the Commission issued two historic preservation municipal infraction citations for the alleged replacement of historic wood windows with vinyl windows prior to obtaining a Certificate of Approval from the Commission. The Property

         Spaw owns the apartment building ("Property") at 2 Maryland Avenue. The four-story brick structure dominates the corner across from Gate 3 of the United States Naval Academy at the intersection of Maryland Avenue and Hanover Street. According to Spaw's Exhibit 10, the Property was built in 1929 by the Cooper Apartment Corporation. Maryland Historical Trust, Maryland Inventory of Historic Properties, Inventory Number AA-1836, Cooper Apartments, https://perma.cc/ZR3T-NSSM [hereinafter Maryland Inventory of Historical Properties]. The apartment building represents the Colonial Revival style and is a contributing structure in the Annapolis Historic District. Id.

         In representing one period of the three centuries of historic architecture, the Annapolis Historic District Design Manual states, "the Colonial Revival style, which grew out of the 1876 Centennial Exhibition, has proven to be one of the most long-lived architectural styles in Annapolis." Annapolis Historic District Design Manual at 22 (citing Historic Annapolis Foundation, A Guide to Domestic & Commercial Architecture Styles in Annapolis (1975)). The Colonial Revival architectural features of the Property include "limestone detailing, including a raised basement, quoining and belt courses, " a front entrance with a "Greek-inspired limestone surround" and a flat roof where the "brick parapet rises above the projecting cornice line." Maryland Inventory of Historical Properties, supra at 13.

         The design of the windows are a prominent feature in the Colonial Revival design of the apartment building. Id. All of the windows have stone sills. Id. The upper story windows have brick lintels while the first story window lintels are part of the limestone belt course. Id. The basement windows are recessed in the limestone veneer of the foundation level. Id. At trial, it was estimated that the apartment building has 186 windows.

         The Property was purchased by Ronald B. Hollander on or about August 19, 1977. As part of an estate planning strategy, Mr. Hollander conveyed the Property to his wife, Rochelle Hollander, on or about February 2, 2007. That same month, Ms. Hollander formed Spaw, a Delaware limited liability company, for the purpose of holding certain real estate assets and related property. Ms. Hollander conveyed the Property to Spaw on or about September 12, 2007. Throughout Spaw's existence, Ms. Hollander has been the company's sole member and Mr. Hollander has been the Maryland resident agent.

         The Citations

         On December 13, 2012, the Commission issued two civil citations to Spaw for violating the Annapolis historic preservation ordinances based on the observations by Ms. Mary Emrick, a City property maintenance inspector, and Ms. Craig. On March 30, 2012, Ms. Emrick was visiting the Property for a different issue, when she noticed that the building had vinyl windows. Ms. Emrick made note of the vinyl windows because she believed the windows were previously historic wood windows-a change that requires a Certificate of Approval from the Commission. Ms. Craig later independently examined the exterior of the Property and confirmed that the historic wood windows were replaced with vinyl windows without the required Certificate of Approval from the Commission. [4]

         The citations alleged a municipal infraction under ACC § 21.56.120(A) for: (1) replacement of wood windows with vinyl windows without obtaining a Certificate of Approval; and (2) removal and replacement of windows without obtaining a Certificate of Approval.[5] The citations did not identify exactly which of the Property's 186 windows that were allegedly replaced nor the dates of when the alleged replacements occurred, but did include the date the citation was issued. Both citations stated that Spaw must appear in court, Spaw may elect to stand trial, and the City seeks abatement of the infraction. On February 12, 2013, Spaw's attorney notified the City that it was requesting a hearing on the citations and strict proof thereof.

         D. Procedural History

         This case comes before this Court after the City's[6] motion for summary judgment was granted by the Circuit Court for Anne Arundel County in a de novo appeal from the District Court for Anne Arundel County. Spaw defended against the historic preservation municipal infraction citations before both courts. However, the circuit court found in favor of the City and the judgment requires Spaw to submit an after-the-fact Certificate of Approval for all windows it replaced without prior approval from the Commission.

         District Court Trial Proceedings

         On May 7, 2013, the first trial was held in the District Court of Maryland for Anne Arundel County on the citations issued to Spaw. At the conclusion of the trial, the court found in favor of the City and entered an Order requiring Spaw to abate its failure to apply for a Certificate of Approval application with the Commission. The district court did not impose any fines. Spaw filed a motion to alter or amend judgment, which the district court denied after a hearing on July 23, 2013.

         Circuit Court Trial Proceedings

         Consequently, Spaw filed an appeal for a de novo trial in the Circuit Court for Anne Arundel County and the bench trial began on December 17, 2014. At the beginning of trial, the City made a preliminary motion to compel discovery and sanction Spaw for its failure to respond to interrogatories and appear for a deposition. The court granted the City's motion and ordered Spaw to pay the fees associated with the subpoena; to respond to the interrogatories within 30 days; and to submit to the deposition within 30 days. The trial proceeded on December 17 with testimony from two of the City's witnesses. On February 6, 2015, Spaw filed its first responses to the City's interrogatories. The trial was set to continue on March 5, 2015, but was postponed two times, first to May 28, 2015, and again to September 15, 2015.

         Spaw subsequently filed supplemental interrogatories on September 11-four days prior to the second day of trial. In the supplemental interrogatories, Spaw admitted to replacing nine to ten wood windows with vinyl windows "in or around 2010." Accordingly, the City filed a motion for summary judgment on the eve of the second trial day supported by Spaw's supplemental interrogatories.

         On September 15, 2015, the court heard from both attorneys regarding several preliminary matters before resuming the trial. First, Spaw argued that a one-year statute of limitations applied in this case pursuant to Maryland Code, Courts and Judicial Proceedings Article ("CJP") § 5-107, or at a minimum a three-year statute of limitation pursuant to CJP §5-101, which would preclude the City from seeking any penalty for any alleged infraction if it occurred more than one or three years prior to the issuance of the citations. The City argued that it was seeking abatement to require Spaw to file a Certificate of Approval with the Commission, which is not a fine, penalty, or forfeiture within CJP § 5-107 but rather an equitable remedy, which is not subject to § 5-101. The court stated it would take their arguments under advisement and later ruled that the statute of limitations did not apply.

         Next, Spaw made a motion to quash a subpoena, which the court denied. Afterward, the City presented its motion for summary judgment to the court, which was supported by Spaw's admission in its supplementary interrogatories that nine to ten windows appeared to have been replaced in 2010 when Spaw was the owner of the property. The City argued that a motion for summary judgment can be raised at any time during the course of a legal proceeding and in lieu of affidavits brought witnesses to testify on facts not yet in the record if the court needed additional support. Spaw did not contest the timing of the motion for summary judgment in its oral response to the City's motion nor raise any due process concerns. Rather, Spaw argued that an admission of replacing nine to ten windows was not sufficient to order abatement for all of the windows. The City's response was that the number of windows replaced was not relevant because replacing one window without a Certificate of Approval from the Commission was a violation. Therefore, the City contended, Spaw was required to abate its violation by filing an after-the-fact Certificate of Approval with the Commission for the windows it replaced. The City stated that an investigation would occur after Spaw filed its Certificate of Approval and that the Commission's determination for the Certificate is appealable.

         After considering the arguments, the court found in favor of the City and granted the motion for summary judgment since there was no dispute that a violation existed. The court found there was evidence that at least one wooden window was removed and replaced with a vinyl window without a Certificate of Approval. Therefore, Spaw was required to abate its violation by filing an after-the-fact Certificate of Approval with the Commission for the windows replaced and removed without a Certificate.

         Subsequently, Spaw moved for a new trial or in the alternative a motion to alter or amend judgment. Spaw argued that a new trial should be granted because the City was not permitted to file a motion for summary judgment after evidence was received at trial and that Spaw was prejudiced by having to defend against the motion the morning after it was filed; or, in the alternative, that the court's order should be altered or amended because the relief granted by the court exceeds what may be permissibly imposed for a municipal infraction. The court denied Spaw's motion. Spaw filed a petition for a writ of certiorari, which we granted. 446 Md. 290 (2016). We rephrase the issues raised by the petition as follows:

(1) Did the circuit court err by compelling discovery for historic preservation municipal infraction citations in a de novo circuit court appeal, by finding the proceeding was civil and subject to Title 2 of the Maryland Rules?
(2) Did the circuit court err by refusing to dismiss the historic preservation municipal infraction citations as unspecific and general?
(3) Did the circuit court err by finding that the historic preservation municipal infraction citations were not barred by the statute of limitations?[7]
(4) Did the circuit court order broad injunctive relief beyond what is permitted for a historic preservation municipal infraction citation?
(5) Did the circuit court abuse its discretion by refusing to grant Spaw's motion for a new trial, or in the alternative, motion to alter or amend judgment based on the newly amended Maryland Rule 2-501?

         II

         Discussion

         A. Standard of Review

         The issues before this Court arise out of the circuit court's denial of Spaw's motion to dismiss the case, grant of summary judgment in favor of the City, and subsequent denial of Spaw's motion for a new trial. Where, as in the present case, an action has been tried without a jury, we "review the case on both the law and the evidence." Md. Rule 8-131(c). Maryland Rule 8-131(c) states:

When an action has been tried without a jury, the appellate court will review the case on both the law and the evidence. It will not set aside the judgment of the trial court on the evidence unless clearly erroneous, and will give due regard to the opportunity of the trial court to judge the credibility of the witnesses.

         The issues raised in this case involve a review of the facts found by the trial judge as well as the interpretation of Maryland statutes. "It is well established that pure conclusions of law are reviewed de novo." Bartlett v. Portfolio Recovery Assocs., LLC, 438 Md. 255, 272 (2014) (citing Nesbit v. Gov't Emps. Ins. Co., 382 Md. 65, 72 (2004)); see also Woznicki v. GEICO Gen. Ins. Co., 443 Md. 93, 108 (2015). "Where a case involves 'the application of Maryland statutory and case law, our Court must determine whether the lower court's conclusions are legally correct' under a de novo standard of review." Clancy v. King, 405 Md. 541, 554 (2008) (quoting Walter v. Gunter, 367 Md. 386, 392 (2002)). "We will not disturb the judgment on the facts, however, unless the trial court's findings are clearly erroneous. 'If there is any competent evidence to support the factual findings of the trial court, those findings cannot be held to be clearly erroneous.'" Goff v. State, 387 Md. 327, 338 (2005) (quoting Solomon v. Solomon, 383 Md. 176, 202 (2004)).

         B. Historic Preservation Citations Are Civil Matters

         The first issue in this case is whether the civil or criminal rules of procedure apply to a municipal infraction proceeding for a historic preservation violation under ACC § 21.56.120. Spaw contends that historic preservation proceedings are governed by the criminal rules of procedure, and the City contends that the civil rules of procedure apply. The circuit court found that the rules of civil procedure governed the proceeding and granted the City's motion to compel discovery for Spaw's failure to answer the City's interrogatories. We affirm the ...


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