Waterman Family Limited Partnership, et al.
Kathleen B. Boomer, et al.
Argument: October 11, 2017
Court for Queen Anne's County Case Nos. 17-C-15-019608,
Barbera, C.J., Greene, Adkins, McDonald, Watts, Hotten,
Rodowsky, Lawrence F. (Senior Judge, Specially Assigned), JJ.
the powers conferred on a Maryland municipality by the
General Assembly pursuant to the State Constitution are the
power to zone land within the municipality's boundaries
and the power to enlarge those boundaries by annexing
contiguous land. However, when a municipality exercises those
powers together, there is a constraint. A State statute
delays for five years the rezoning of annexed land for a use
"substantially different" from that allowed by the
land's prior county zoning classification - unless the
county approves the municipality's reclassification of
the annexed property before the expiration of the five-year
Waterman Family Limited Partnership ("Waterman")
asked the Town Commissioners of Queenstown ("the
Town"), also a Petitioner, to annex farm land owned by
Waterman adjacent to Queenstown in Queen Anne's County.
At the same time, Waterman asked the Town to rezone the
annexed land for purposes of a long planned development. The
Town acceded to those requests. In order to make the new
zoning effective sooner rather than later, the Town sought
the County's approval of the new zoning classification.
Certain nearby property owners, including Respondents
Kathleen B. Boomer, Marie J. McNurlan, Paul A. McNurlan,
Stacy L. Swartwood, and the Queen Anne's Conservation
Association (collectively "QACA"), opposed the
effort to obtain the County's approval of the new zoning.
same time, the County government happened to be in a period
of transition as a result of the November 2014 election. The
outgoing Board of County Commissioners - the County's
governing body - narrowly approved the Town's rezoning in
late November 2014. Two weeks later, the newly installed
Board of County Commissioners rescinded that approval.
Waterman and the Town instituted legal action against the
County. QACA joined the fray in defense of the County's
rescission of its initial approval. Waterman's challenge
raised a question of first impression: May a county rescind
its approval of a municipality's rezoning of annexed
Circuit Court for Queen Anne's County said
"no." The Court of Special Appeals said
"yes." For the reasons set forth in this opinion,
we agree with the Court of Special Appeals.
Rezoning Land After Municipal Annexation
General Assembly has authorized municipalities in Maryland to
exercise zoning authority over land within their respective
jurisdictions. Maryland Code, Local Government Article
("LG") §5-213; see also Maryland
Code, Land Use Article ("LU"), §1-101(g)
(definition of "legislative body" includes
governing body of municipality), §4-101 et seq.
(authorizing legislative body to exercise zoning powers).
law allows a municipality to annex unincorporated land
contiguous to the municipality's boundaries if certain
procedures are followed. LG §4-401 et seq. A
proposal to annex land may be initiated by the legislative
body of the municipality or by residents or owners of the
land in question. LG §§4-403, 4-404.
Rezoning of Annexed Land
generally the case that unincorporated land annexed by a
municipality will already have been subject to county zoning.
State law temporarily limits the rezoning and development of
such land after annexation by a municipality. In particular,
for a period of time the county retains some say over whether
and when the land may be rezoned or developed in a way that
allows for a substantially higher density or different use
than that allowed by the county zoning classification that
applied to the land prior to annexation. That constraint is
set forth in LG §4-416, which provides in pertinent
(a)Existing municipal authority. - (1)
Notwithstanding [a provision of the Local Government Article
that limits the extent of municipal authority over planning,
subdivision, and zoning] . . . if an area is annexed to a
municipality that has planning and zoning authority at the
time of annexation, the municipality shall have exclusive
jurisdiction over planning, subdivision control, and zoning
in the area annexed.
(b)Different land use or density. - Without the
express approval of the county commissioners or county
council of the county in which the municipality is located,
for 5 years after an annexation by a municipality, the
municipality may not allow development of the annexed land
for land uses substantially different than the authorized
use, or at a substantially higher density, not exceeding 50%,
than could be granted for the proposed development, in
accordance with the zoning classification of the county
applicable at the time of the annexation.
(c)County approval of zoning classification. -
Notwithstanding [a provision of the Land Use Article
concerning amendment or repeal of a zoning classification]
and if the county expressly approves, the municipality may
place the annexed land in a zoning classification that allows
a land use or density different from the land use or density
specified in the zoning classification of the county or
agency with planning and zoning jurisdiction over the land
prior to its annexation applicable at the time of the
principles incorporated in the statute can be summarized as
• Municipality's exclusive jurisdiction - As a
general rule, a municipality that has planning and zoning
authority has exclusive jurisdiction over planning, zoning
and subdivision control in any area that the municipality
• Five-year delay of rezoning - The exclusive authority
of the municipality is subject to the proviso that, for a
period of five years after annexation, the municipality may
not allow development of the annexed land for uses
"substantially different" from that authorized
under the county zoning applicable to the property prior to
annexation. In sum, municipal rezoning of annexed land may be
subject to a five-year delay.
• County waiver of delay - That proviso, however, is
subject to a further proviso. The county - i.e., the
county commissioners or the county council, as the case may
be - may give "express approval" for the new
municipal zoning before the five-year period expires. This
approval is sometimes referred to as a county
"waiver" of the five-year delay.
case raises the question whether a county that waives the
five-year delay by giving express approval may rescind that
waiver before any development has been undertaken in the
B.Facts and Legal ...