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The Town of Forest Heights v. The Maryland-National Capitalpark and Planning Commission

Court of Appeals of Maryland

April 5, 2019


          Argued: October 4, 2018

          Circuit Court for Prince George's County Case No. CAL16-29110

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


          Getty, J.

         In the present appeal, we are asked to determine whether a proposed municipal annexation, that encompasses an area consisting entirely of tax-exempt properties, requires consent from the owners of such properties pursuant to Local Government Article ("LG") § 4-403(b)(2). Additionally, we are asked to determine whether the proposed annexation plan of the Town of Forest Heights ("Forest Heights") attempts to usurp law enforcement jurisdiction over certain lands contained within the proposed annexation area that are owned and operated by the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission ("MNCPPC").

         In its writ of certiorari, the Town of Forest Heights presents us with the following questions for review:

1. Did the circuit court err when it invalidated two resolutions of the Town of Forest Heights that, collectively, annexed into the Town approximately 737 acres of land without the consent of the owners of 25% of the assessed value of the lands annexed by each resolution, where all the annexed lands were tax-exempt, and where, consistent with City of Salisbury v. Banker's Life, 21 Md.App. 396 (1974), the owners of the lands were not required to provide their consents to the annexation?
2. Did the circuit court err when it determined that a portion of the Town's Annexation Plan violates Md. Code, Local Gov't § 4-104(b) and Land Use § 17-303(a), and, as a result, ordered that the Town may not exercise law enforcement on any land owned by Maryland-National Park and Planning Commission?

         We answer both questions in the affirmative, finding first that the 25% property owner consent requirement of LG § 4-403(b)(2) does not encompass tax-exempt property owners. Second, we conclude that the language contained within the annexation plan was appropriately conditioned as to avoid any attempted divestment, duplication, or usurpation of law enforcement jurisdiction over certain properties owned and managed by MNCPPC.


         Petitioner, Forest Heights is a municipal corporation located within Prince George's County that spans 306 acres of land southeast of Maryland's border with the District of Columbia. In terms of municipal services, the Town provides road maintenance, street lighting, garbage collection, police, and code enforcement to its residents. Within the borders of Forest Heights are two public parks owned and maintained by Respondent, MNCPPC.

         Since its incorporation in 1949, Forest Heights has extended its corporate limits five times excluding the annexations at issue within this appeal. On April 20, 2016, the Town Council of Forest Heights introduced two annexation resolutions titled annexation resolutions No. 01-2016 and 02-2016.[1] The proposed extensions are comprised of several tax-exempt properties owned by MNCPPC, Prince George's County, the Board of Education of Prince George's County, the State of Maryland, the United States, and the Oxon Hill Methodist Church.[2]

         Annexation resolution No. 01-2016 encompasses 446.88 acres of land located west of Forest Heights that extends to the boundary line of Washington, D.C. The proposed annexation area of resolution No. 01-2016 includes land owned by the federal government, under the jurisdiction of the National Park Service, including Oxon Cove Park and Oxon Hill Farm, [3] and land owned by MNCPPC.

         Annexation resolution 02-2016 encompasses 289.97 acres of land located to the south of Forest Heights. The land falling within the proposed annexation area is owned by Prince George's County, the Board of Education of Prince George's County, MNCPPC, the State of Maryland, the federal government, and the Oxon Hill Methodist Church. Specifically, the annexation includes Oxon Hill Manor, the Potomac Vista Recreational Area, Betty Blume Neighborhood Park, Southlawn Local Park, John Hanson Montessori School, Oxon Hill High School, several undeveloped lots, and portions of the Washington Circumferential Highway, commonly known as the Capital Beltway (i.e. Interstates 95 and 495).

         Together, the two annexation resolutions encompass an area of 736.85 acres which would more than double the corporate limits of Forest Heights. The proposed annexation area contains no residential properties and no registered voters reside therein. Forest Heights did not obtain consent from any of the property owners because the Town believed that - pursuant to LG § 4-403 - such consent was not required because all of the property owners enjoyed tax-exempt status. In total, MNCPPC owns seven properties within the proposed annexation area and Prince George's County owns one. All properties involved in the proposed annexations are located within a special district for planning and zoning demarcated as the "Maryland-Washington Regional District."[4] In addition, the properties also fall within a largely overlapping special district for managing parklands known as the "Maryland-Washington Metropolitan District."

         In 2014, Forest Heights attempted to annex the same properties at issue within the instant appeal. Although the State and federal governments did not object to the prior annexation attempt, Prince George's County ("the County") and MNCPPC opposed the annexation and spearheaded a judicial challenge in response. In that case, the attempted annexation was invalidated due to certain procedural deficiencies.[5]

         On April 20, 2016, Forest Heights adopted annexation plans for annexation resolutions No. 01-2016 and 02-2016. A public hearing regarding the two annexation resolutions was held on June 6, 2016, and the resolutions were passed. On the same day, both MNCPPC and Prince George's County submitted letters of opposition to Jacqueline Goodall, the Mayor of Forest Heights, requesting that the properties under their jurisdiction be removed from the annexation areas.

         Over a month later, MNCPPC and the County filed a complaint for declaratory judgment in the Circuit Court for Prince George's County challenging both annexations and seeking a declaratory judgment that the annexation resolutions were a nullity. The complaint against Forest Heights joined as parties the State of Maryland and the federal government. On August 25, the State of Maryland filed a notice of voluntary dismissal pursuant to Maryland Rule 2-506(a) to be excluded from the matter. Similarly, on November 21, the United States government filed a stipulation of dismissal. The circuit court granted both motions for dismissal.[6]

         Forest Heights filled a Motion to Dismiss or for Summary Judgment on October 31, 2016 and renewed this Motion on April 10, 2017. Nine days later, MNCPPC filed a response to Forest Heights' motion accompanied by its own motion for summary judgment. After a hearing held on June 21, 2017, the circuit court issued a written opinion and order dated January 29, 2018, in which it found the annexation resolutions to be null and void. Specifically, the court found the Town's failure to obtain consent from the property owners fatal to the annexation and determined the annexation plan impermissibly attempted to divest law enforcement jurisdiction from MNCPPC.

         A notice of appeal of the circuit court's judgment was filed on February 23, 2018, by Forest Heights. While the appeal was pending before the Court of Special Appeals, Forest Heights filed a petition for writ of certiorari with this Court, which we granted on June 1, 2018. Town of Forest Heights v. Md.-National Capital Park and Planning Comm'n, 459 Md. 400 (2018). Additional facts will be provided throughout our analysis.


         In cases where the focus is statutory interpretation, this Court's primary goal is to ascertain the purpose and intention of the General Assembly when they enacted the statutory provisions. Washington Gas Light Co. v. Maryland Pub. Serv. Comm'n, 460 Md. 667, 682 (2018) (citing Shealer v. Straka, 459 Md. 68, 84 (2018)). We have previously commented that within the context of statutory interpretation

[t]his Court provides judicial deference to the policy decisions enacted into law by the General Assembly. We assume that the legislature's intent is expressed in the statutory language and thus our statutory interpretation focuses primarily on the language of the statute to determine the purpose and intent of the General Assembly. We begin our analysis by first looking to the normal, plain meaning of the language of the statute, reading the statute as a whole to ensure that no word, clause, sentence or phrase is rendered surplusage, superfluous, meaningless or nugatory. If the language of the statute is clear and unambiguous, we need not look beyond the statute's provisions and our analysis ends. Occasionally we see fit to examine extrinsic sources of legislative intent merely as a check of our reading of a statute's plain language. In such instances, we may find useful the context of a statute, the overall statutory scheme, and archival legislative history of relevant enactments.

Brown v. State, 454 Md. 546, 550-51 401 (2017) (citing Phillips v. State, 451 Md. 180, 196-197 (2017)). Additionally, we have indicated that, in situations where "the plain language of a statute is 'subject to more than one reasonable interpretation, the statutory language is ambiguous.'" Koste v. Town of Oxford, 431 Md. 14, 29 (2013) (quoting Lockshin v. Semsker, 412 Md. 257, 276 (2010)). Further,

[w]here the words of a statute are ambiguous and subject to more than one reasonable interpretation, or where the words are clear and unambiguous when viewed in isolation, but become ambiguous when read as part of a larger statutory scheme, a court must resolve the ambiguity by searching for legislative intent in other indicia, including the history of the legislation or other relevant sources intrinsic and extrinsic to the legislative process.

Gardner v. State, 420 Md. 1, 9 (2011) (quoting State v. Johnson, 415 Md. 413, 421-22 (2010)).

         In addition, this Court's inquiry is not limited to the particular statutory provisions at issue on appeal. Rather, as we have recently noted, "[t]his Court may also analyze the statute's 'relationship to earlier and subsequent legislation, and other material that fairly bears on the fundamental issue of legislative purpose or goal, which becomes the context within which we read the particular language before us in a given case.'" Blackstone v. Sharma, 461 Md. 86, 114 (2018) (quoting Kaczorowski v. Mayor & City Council of Baltimore, 309 Md. 505, 515 (1987)).


         Article 11E of the Maryland Constitution, commonly referred to as the "Municipal Home Rule Amendment" was enacted by act of the General Assembly and ratified by voters in November 1954. 1954 Md. Laws ch. 53; Legis. Council of Md., Report to the General Assembly of 1955, 217.[7] This constitutional amendment granted specific home rule powers to municipalities. Md. Const., art. 11E. After the ratification of Article 11E, it was necessary for the General Assembly to pass new legislation to create a statutory scheme to implement this home rule authority. Legis. Council of Md., Report to the General Assembly of 1955, 308.

         In 1955, the General Assembly enacted the predecessor to the current Subtitle 4 of the Local Government Article. Article 23A § 19, (1955 Md. Laws ch. 423; Legis. Council of Md., Report to the General Assembly of 1955, 3, 217). In their report to the General Assembly, the Legislative Council of Maryland explained that the legislation proposed for introduction in 1955 was a companion to the 1954 Constitutional Amendment and was necessary for the newly established municipal home-rule powers by "establishing procedures to be followed in amending town charters, repealing town charters, [and] annexing territory to towns[.]"[8] Legis. Council of Md., Report to the General Assembly of 1955, 217.

         Although the power of annexation was not constitutionally granted to municipalities by the 1954 Constitutional Amendment, the statute passed the following year granted municipalities the authority to annex real property to expand their corporate limits. 1955 Md. Laws ch. 423. See generally LG § 4-401 (empowering municipalities to annex lands that are "contiguous and adjoining" to the borders of the municipality, not contained within another municipality, and which will not create an "enclave" - an unincorporated area surrounded on all sides by land within a municipality); LG § 4-403 (imposing certain limits on the annexation powers of a municipal corporation).

         Primarily, there are two ways through which a municipality may initiate an annexation - by petition or through municipal legislative enactment. LG § 4-415(d). See also LG §§ 4-404, 4-403. First, an annexation may be initiated by petition if it is signed by a certain percentage of registered voters residing within the proposed annexation area and a certain percentage of those owning property within the area. LG § 4-404(a). Next, the presiding officer of a municipality's legislative body must verify that the petition meets the statutory requirements and then must introduce a related annexation resolution before the municipal legislative body. LG § 4-404(b), (c).

         The second method, which was used by Forest Heights in the present appeal, commences with an annexation resolution introduced before the appropriate municipal legislative body. Such resolution must be filed in accordance with the procedure for municipal legislative enactments and amendments applicable to the municipality's charter. LG § 4-403(a). A municipality's ability to annex territory is limited by certain consent requirements, which - in some circumstances - require the municipality to obtain a certain level of consent from any registered voters residing within the area and from those who own property within the area. See LG § 4-403(b). An annexation resolution must describe the area intended to be annexed and provide a "detailed description of the conditions and circumstances that apply to: (i) the change in boundaries; and (ii) the residents and property in the area to be annexed." LG § 4-403(c).

         A. The 25% Consent Requirement of LG § 4-403(b)(2) Does Not Require Consent from the Owners of Tax-Exempt Property.

         While LG § 4-401 is the primary source of authority through which a municipality may annex territories and expand its corporate boundaries, LG § 4-403(b) limits such annexation powers by requiring the consent of both registered voters and property owners in the manner provided by the statute which, in pertinent part, provides the following:

(b) Before an annexation resolution is introduced, the legislative body shall obtain consent from:
(1) at least 25% of the registered voters who are residents in the area to be annexed; and
(2) the owners of at least 25% of the assessed valuation of the real property in the area to be annexed.

LG. § 4-403(b). For the annexation proposed by Forest Heights, no registered voters resided within the areas encompassed by annexation resolutions 01-2016 and 02-2016. Thus, our primary focus is the 25% consent requirement of LG § 4-403(b)(2) and whether the consent of tax-exempt property owners is mandated. Put narrowly, our analysis will focus on the term "assessed valuation" as utilized within LG § 4-403(b)(2) and whether tax-exempt properties contribute to and constitute part of the assessed valuation of a proposed annexation area.

         Prior to 1971, tax-exempt property was not assessed for taxation. Legis. Council of Md., Report to the General Assembly of 1955, at 209-10 (1954); City of Salisbury v. Banker's Life, 21 Md.App. 396, 404 (1974). Consequently, tax-exempt property included within an area that a municipality intended to annex prior to 1971 did not have an "assessed valuation" and, therefore, municipalities were not required to obtain consent from such property owners.

         In 1971, the General Assembly enacted a statute that requires that tax-exempt property be assessed. 1971 Md. Laws ch. 361 § 1; Banker's Life, 21 Md.App. at 403-04. Initially codified as Article 81, § 232B, these statutory provisions are currently § 7-106 of the Tax - Property Article ("TP") and provide the following:

(a) Except for real property owned by the federal government, real property that is exempt by law from the property tax shall be assessed under this article and in the manner required by the Director.
(b) The assessments of exempt real property shall be maintained in the records of the Department and of the supervisor in each county in which the exempt property is located.
(c) For the purpose of distributing State funds, the assessments of exempt property may not be included in the total assessment of all property.[9]

         In the present appeal, Forest Heights and Amicus Curiae, Maryland Municipal League, Inc. ("MML"), argue that the General Assembly's enactment of Article 81, § 232B created ambiguity into the overarching statutory scheme regulating annexations. Primarily, they argue that this ambiguity was an unintended consequence which left one unable to discern, purely based on reference to LG § 4-403, whether the owners of tax-exempt properties ought to be included in consideration of the 25% consent requirement of LG § 4-403(b)(2).

         On the other hand, MNCPPC asserts that the statute is not ambiguous and, under its plain language, municipalities must obtain consent from the owners of tax-exempt properties. In contrast, Forest Heights and MML rely upon the Court of Special Appeals' decision in Banker's Life which held that, pursuant to Art. 23A, § 19(b), a municipality is not required to obtain consent from the owners of tax-exempt properties to effectuate an annexation. Having established the relevant facts, the parties' respective arguments and the underlying statutory framework, we must now embark upon our journey of statutory interpretation - an expedition that commences with a determination of whether the language of LG § 4-403(b)(2) is ambiguous.

         In accordance with the principles of statutory interpretation mentioned above, we begin our inquiry by looking to the plain language of the statute to discern whether any ambiguity exists. On its face, LG § 4-403(b)(2) is confusing because although the term "assessed valuation" likely was intended to mean the value assessed to a particular property for taxation purposes, the term is not defined within the Local Government Article. The "assessed valuation" of residential or commercial properties in the context of municipal annexations is easily understood. However, within the context of tax-exempt properties, the statute's meaning is uncertain because such properties are not subject to taxation. Thus, we must determine whether a tax-exempt property is assessed and valued for tax purposes by looking beyond the plain language of LG § 4-403.

         There are potentially two different interpretations of the provision at issue. Forest Heights and MML interpret the term "assessed valuation" as excluding tax-exempt property and, therefore, contend that the consent of tax-exempt property owners is not required under the statute. Conversely, MNCPPC argues that the statutory language is clear on its face and "assessed valuation" encompasses tax-exempt property and therefore mandates that an annexation requires consent from such property owners.

         Ambiguity is present in situations where there are multiple reasonable, yet differing, interpretations of the same statutory provision. Koste, 431 Md. at 29. See also Gardner, 420 Md. at 9. In terms of the provision at issue, no statutory definitions within the Local Government Article aid in determining the meaning of "assessed valuation." As previously mentioned, the introduction of TP § 7-106 complicated Maryland's statutory framework surrounding municipal annexations. Prior to its passage in 1971, it is clear that tax-exempt property was not assessed and could not be subject to the 25% consent requirement of LG § 4-403(b)(2).

         While the words "assess(ed)" and "valuation" are not defined within the Local Government Article, the Tax - Property Article does contain definitions for the terms "assess" and "assessment." See TP § 1-101. The definition of "assess" differs depending upon whether the property in question is real or personal property. In terms of real property, the statute defines "assess" as "determin[ing] the phased-in full cash value or use value to which the property tax rate may be applied[.]" TP § 1-101(b). Similarly, for real property, the statute defines the term "assessment" as meaning "the phased-in full cash value or use value to which the property tax rate may be applied." TP § 1-101(c).

         Based on these statutory definitions, it is evident that the word "assessment" is an estimate of the value of a property which is then used to determine the overall tax liability due on that particular property. Tax-exempt property is assessed but not taxed. Forest Heights notes that tax-exempt property is "not subject to… the burdens of supporting a municipal government," and, therefore, does not appear on the tax roll. See TP § 7-210(a) (exempting from property tax any lands owned by federal, State, county, municipal corporation, or an agency or instrumentality of the preceding entities).

         As defined by the Tax - Property Article, an "assessment roll" is "the official listing of assessments of property required under § 2-202(3) of this article." TP § 1-101(d). TP § 2-202(3) provides that the Director of the State Department of Assessments and Taxation has the power "to direct that the Department enter all taxable property on the assessment rolls, and regardless of whether the property is owned by an individual, corporation, or some other person, to value alike all property of a like kind." TP § 2-202(3). Additionally, the Article defines a "tax roll" as "the assessment roll to which the property tax rate has been applied and on which the property tax on each property is shown." TP § 1-101(nn).

         Therefore, these two distinct types of rolls exist that reinforce the distinction between assessment and taxation. The assessment rolls contain the list of all properties that are assessed; in contrast, tax rolls are a specific type of assessment roll - one to which the tax rate is applied to calculate the tax burden associated with a particular property. Tax-exempt properties are assessed and appear on an assessment roll yet do not appear on a tax roll. Prior to the enactment of Art. 81, § 232B in 1971, tax exempt properties were not assessed and there was no distinction between tax and assessment rolls. Clearly, at the time, tax exempt properties were not considered relative to the 25% consent requirement. Banker's Life, 21 Md.App. at 402-3.[10]

         The Legislative Council's Report to the General Assembly of 1971 provides the following explanation for the adoption of Art. 81, § 232B:

This legislation offered by the Committee on Taxation and Fiscal Matters is related to the property tax rearrangement legislation. Although it arose from 1970 bills requiring the making of payments-in-lieu of taxes for some kinds of tax exempt property, the Committee found that it was impossible to consider those bills properly because tax exempt property is not valued and assessed. The Committee feels that the lack of any valuation for tax exempt property is an oversight in the State's property and assessment laws which needs to be corrected. This information will provide a basis for consideration of payments-in-lieu proposals and also for evaluation of property tax exemptions.
The bill below provides that exempt property will be valued, as the Department of Assessments and Taxation directs, by teams of assessors and completed by January 1, 1973. The valuations will be maintained separately and will not affect any assessable base on which State aid is computed.

         Legis. Council of Md., Report to the General Assembly of 1971, 253 (emphasis added). Clearly, in drafting Art. 81, § 232B, the General Assembly had intended to solve the policy issue that the State lacked any methodology of determining the potential value of tax-exempt properties for calculating payment-in-lieu of taxes proposals.

         Accordingly, the Legislative Council's Report of 1971 indicates that the policy supporting the assessment of tax-exempt properties is to "provide a basis for consideration of payments-in-lieu proposals and also for evaluation of property tax exemptions." Id. Although payments in lieu of taxes ("PILOTs") have been broadly expanded in present times, [11] they were historically interrelated to attempts to reduce the financial impact of State or federal tax exemptions on localities. For example, in the 1960s, the statute governing the enumeration of taxable property, e.g. Art. 81, § 8, contained a provision under which individuals who leased or borrowed certain lands from the federal government for specific for-profit purposes, [12] were subject to taxation as if they were the owner of the property. Art. 81, § 8(e). However, this provision did not apply to "federal or State property for which negotiated payments are made in lieu of taxes." Id. Because property held by such entities was tax exempt, local governments would have difficulty determining the sufficiency of an entity's payment in lieu of tax relative to the value of property the entity held. As indicated by the Council's report, this was the foremost and primary reason the General Assembly enacted 1971 Md. Laws ch. 361 § 1.

         The General Assembly did not express an intention to modify the statutory framework surrounding municipal annexations because it never referenced the relevant statutory provisions regarding municipal home rule. Accordingly, we conclude that the General Assembly's introduction and enactment of 1971 Md. Laws ch. 361 § 1 was aimed at solving "an oversight in the State's property and assessment laws" and the General Assembly had no intention of modifying the statutory framework surrounding municipal annexations. Legis. Council of Md., Report to the General Assembly of 1971, 253-54. The General Assembly intended only to modify and improve the State's ability to account for tax-exempt properties existing within the State. Moreover, this legislative history is devoid of any indication that the General Assembly intended to alter the 25% consent requirement or amend municipal annexations generally. Id.

         Although counties and certain planning agencies do not have a statutory right to veto municipal annexations, the General Assembly has provided to them certain procedural leverage over the annexation process. The relevant statute was enacted in 1975, (1975 Md. Laws ch. 693 (H.B. 534)), and is currently codified in Title 4 of the Local Government Article. First, LG § 4-406 provides that a municipality must provide notice of an annexation to the governing body of the county in which the municipality is located and any regional or State planning agencies with jurisdiction within the county. LG § 4-406(c). Second, county, State, and regional planning agencies possess the "first right to be heard" at public annexation hearings. LG § 4-406(d). Third, a county's governing body by a two-thirds vote may require that the annexation be put to referendum within the proposed annexation area. LG § 4-410. This essentially halts a municipality's annexation resolution pending a successful referendum.

         Both Forest Heights and MML argue that even though counties enjoy the right to petition a proposed annexation to referendum, the legislative history of H.B. 534 indicates that the General Assembly did not intend to grant counties the authority or ability to veto a proposed municipal annexation. When attempting to ascertain legislative intent, this Court focuses on the specific intent of the General Assembly and not the intent of witnesses supporting or opposing a particular piece of proposed legislation. Anne Arundel County v. City of Annapolis, 352 Md. 117, 128 n.4 (1998).

         However, witness testimony contributes to statutory interpretation because "[a]lthough the comments of those witnesses do not reflect legislative intent directly, they do help indirectly by identifying the issues the Legislature sought to address." Id. In his testimony on H.B. 534, Jon Burrell (at that time Executive Director of MML) stated that MML had historically opposed granting counties the authority to force an annexation to referendum but that a compromise was reached between MML and the Maryland Association of Counties ("MACo").[13] See Bill File to H.B. 534, Testimony - Statement of Jon Burrell, MML, in support of H.B. 534 (1975). Mr. Burrell testified that the introduction of the two-thirds referendum requirement was intended merely to protect counties from municipal annexations in situations where a municipal corporation had not provided the county with an adequate justification.[14] Id. Specifically, he testified that the referendum provision

would give assurance to the county government that, if they felt a referendum was not held because of lack of sufficient knowledge of [the effects] of annexation or because the petition fell just short of the requisite number of signatures, they then would have a remedy to force a referendum in the area to be annexed while drawing attention to their reasons for defeating the proposed annexation.


         In addition to the above testimony, the Attorney General has issued several opinions regarding the interplay between a property's tax-exempt status and municipal annexation. Although opinions by the Attorney General are merely persuasive and not binding upon this Court, they are afforded considerable weight within the context of statutory interpretation. State v. Crescent Cities Jaycees Foundation, Inc., 330 Md. 460, 470 (1993); Read Drug & Chem. Co. v. Claypoole, 165 Md. 250, 257 (1933). In considering opinions by the Attorney General, this Court has previously commented that "[t]he Legislature is presumed to be aware of the Attorney General's statutory interpretation and, in the absence of enacting any change to the statutory language, to acquiesce in the Attorney General's construction." Chesek v. Jones, 406 Md. 446, 463 (2008) (citing Read Drug & Chemical Co., 165 Md. at 257-58); Crescent Cities Jaycees Foundation, Inc., 330 Md. at 470.

         In 1981, the Attorney General provided an unpublished opinion to Lawrence E. Speelman, the county attorney for Frederick County, regarding a county's ability to veto a proposed municipal annexation. [15] 66 Op. Att'y Gen. Md. 267 (1981). The synopsis printed in the published volumes of the Attorney General summaries the opinion as follows:

Under Article 23A, § 19, counties do not have the power to consent to or to veto a municipal annexation of territory, even where county-owned land is located in that territory. However, counties do have the right to be notified of the proceedings, to be heard first at a public hearing, to receive an outline for the extension of services and public facilities to the territory to be annexed, and to petition the annexation resolution to a public referendum of the residents in that territory.


         A subsequent opinion by the Attorney General considered whether the City of Havre de Grace could annex an uninhabited island located in the Susquehanna River. 87 Md. Att'y Gen. Op. 161 (2002). In a footnote, the Attorney General indicated that Maryland has "a policy against a county referendum or veto." Id. Further, in distinguishing between a county's ability to veto by forcing an annexation to a county-wide referendum, the Attorney General opined, "[t]his amendment was the result of deliberations by representatives of the Maryland Municipal League and the Maryland Association of Counties. The purpose of the legislation ...

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