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City of College Park v. Precision Small Engines

Court of Special Appeals of Maryland

June 6, 2017

CITY OF COLLEGE PARK, ET AL.
v.
PRECISION SMALL ENGINES, ET AL.

          Woodward, C.J., Eyler, Deborah S., Graeff, JJ.

          OPINION

          Eyler, Deborah S., J.

         In this appeal we are called upon to interpret a Memorandum of Understanding ("MOU") entered into between appellant City of College Park ("the City") and appellant Prince George's County Council, sitting as the District Council ("the County"), by which the City assumed the power to enforce County zoning violations within the City's corporate limits. The appellees are Gregory Hnarakis and Thomas Stokes, owners of 9651 Baltimore Avenue, College Park ("the Property"), and Precision Small Engines, Inc. ("PSE"), a tenant of the Property.

         In the Circuit Court for Prince George's County, the appellees filed a declaratory judgment action against the appellants asking the court to declare that the terms of the MOU prohibit the City from requiring non-residential occupancy permits and building permits under City law, independent of those issued by the County. The court entered a Memorandum Opinion so ruling. On appeal, the appellants ask whether the court's ruling was legally erroneous. For the following reasons, we answer that question in the affirmative and shall reverse the judgment of the circuit court.

         FACTS AND PROCEEDINGS

a.

         Division of Zoning Authority between the County and the City

         Md. Code (2012), section 22-104 of the Land Use Article ("LU"), vests the District Council with authority to adopt zoning laws within Prince George's County. Pursuant to that authority, the County adopted its zoning ordinance, codified at Subtitle 27 of the County Code ("Zoning Ordinance"). As pertinent, the Zoning Ordinance requires County residents to apply for a use and occupancy permit ("U&O Permit") for any non-residential use. County Code, § 27-253. Before a U&O Permit is issued, the property is inspected by the County Building Inspector and must be certified as complying with the Zoning Ordinance. Id. A U&O Permit is required at the time of new construction; when an occupant proposes a change in use; and when a new occupant takes possession of property, even if the use does not change. Id.

         Separate from the Zoning Ordinance, the County also requires property owners or occupants to obtain a building permit prior to "new construction, alteration, removal, demolition, or other building operation" within the County. County Code, § 4-352(a).

         A municipal corporation within the County, such as the City, does not have zoning authority except as specifically authorized by State law; however, it has "concurrent jurisdiction" within its corporate limits to enforce County zoning laws. LU § 22-119(a). To exercise that enforcement power, the municipal corporation must enter into a written agreement with the County, addressing:

(1) the method by which the county will be advised of citations issued by a municipal inspector;
(2) the responsibility of the municipal corporation or the county to prosecute violations cited by the municipal corporation;
(3) the disposition of fines imposed for violations cited by the municipal corporation;
(4) the resolution of disagreements between the municipal corporation and the county about the interpretation of zoning laws; and
(5) any other matter that the district council considers necessary for the proper exercise of the authority ...

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