United States District Court, D. Maryland
L. HOLLANDER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
land use and First Amendment case, plaintiff Hunt Valley
Baptist Church, Inc. (“HVBC” or the
“Church”) filed suit against Baltimore County and
the Board of Appeals of Baltimore County (the
“Board”), alleging, inter alia,
violations of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized
Persons Act of 2000 (“RLUIPA”), codified at 42
U.S.C. §§ 2000cc et seq.; the Free
Exercise Clause of the First Amendment; the Equal Protection
Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment; and Article 36 of the
Maryland Declaration of Rights. ECF 1
pending is defendants' “Motion for Leave to File an
Amended Answer to the Complaint, ” which is supported
by a memorandum of law (ECF 98-1) (collectively, the
“Motion”) and three exhibits. The proposed
amended answer is docketed at ECF 98-3. The Church filed
an Opposition (ECF 99), accompanied by eight exhibits. ECF
99-1 to ECF 99-8. Defendants replied (ECF 100,
“Reply”), supported by four additional exhibits.
See ECF 100-1 to ECF 100-4.
Motion is fully briefed, and no hearing is necessary to
resolve it. See Local Rule 105.6. For the reasons
that follow, I shall deny the Motion.
Factual and Procedural Background
discussed at length in my Amended Memorandum Opinion of
October 24, 2017 (ECF 21), HVBC sought a special exception to
build a church on 16.6 acres of land located at 821 Shawan
Road in Cockeysville, Maryland. See ECF 21 at 4-18.
However, on February 22, 2017, a majority of the Board
rejected the Church's zoning request. Id. at
15-17; see also ECF 8-2 at 131-44
after, on March 23, 2017, plaintiff initiated suit in this
Court. See ECF 1. By Order of October 17, 2017, I
denied in part and granted in part defendants' motion to
dismiss. ECF 17; see also ECF 21. Defendants
answered the Complaint on November 3, 2017. ECF 22
(“Answer”). The Answer raised 41 defenses,
including assumption of risk, contributory negligence, and
laches. Id. at 19-23.
November 27, 2019, plaintiff filed a Motion to Strike the
Answer. ECF 24; ECF 24-1 (collectively, the “Motion to
Strike”). Defendants opposed the Motion to Strike. ECF
31. Plaintiff replied. ECF 34. By Memorandum (ECF 41) and
Order (ECF 42) of March 29, 2018, the Court granted the
Motion to Strike as to the affirmative defenses of assumption
of risk, contributory negligence, and laches, “subject
to the right of defendants to renew these defenses, based on
a factual predicate.” ECF 42. The Motion to Strike was
denied in all other respects. Id.
on December 7, 2017, the Court issued a Scheduling Order. ECF
27. The Scheduling Order set a deadline of January 8, 2018,
to move “for joinder of additional parties and
amendment of pleadings.” Id. at 1. By consent,
the Church requested a modification of the Scheduling Order,
seeking a sixty-day extension of the discovery deadline, to
August 22, 2018. ECF 43. The Court approved that motion. ECF
44. Then, on June 7, 2018, the Court issued an Amended
Scheduling Order, which extended the discovery deadline to
August 31, 2018. ECF 53. On June 28, 2018, the Court granted
defendants' request to extend the deadline for the expert
disclosure and written report of a defense expert. ECF 58. By
a Second Amended Scheduling Order of July 6, 2018 (ECF 60),
the Court moved the discovery deadline to October 31, 2018.
ECF 61. Then, on September 17, 2018, the Court extended the
discovery deadline to November 30, 2018. ECF 66. Finally, on
November 26, 2018, the Court extended the discovery deadline
to December 7, 2018, to allow the parties to complete
depositions. ECF 88.
January 29, 2019, over a year beyond the deadline for
amending the pleadings, defendants moved for leave to amend
the answer. ECF 98. They allege that, “[d]uring the
course of discovery, undersigned counsel uncovered additional
facts” that “have resulted in a change to a
number of the Defendants' answers” to specific
allegations in the suit. ECF 98-1 at 3. The Motion also adds
14 additional defenses, ECF 98-3 at 26-28:
41. RLUIPA violates the principal [sic] of federalism, the
establishment clause of the First Amendment, Section 5 of the
Fourteenth Amendment, and the Commerce Clause.
42. Plaintiff purchased 821 Shawan Road knowing that a
perpetual Conservancy Area Easement covered 70% of the
property, including the entire area where the Plaintiff
proposed to build its Church and attendant parking.
43. Plaintiff failed to put into its Purchase and Sale
Agreement for the property a contingency for extinguishment
of the Conservancy Area Easement and for its obtaining a
44. Plaintiff failed to request a variance from the R.C.4 10%
45. Plaintiff failed to seek a special exception with respect
to its proposed gymnasium/fellowship hall, neither of which
uses appeared on the Plan that accompanied the Zoning
46. The Conservancy Area Easement was not depicted on the
Plaintiff's Plan to Accompany Zoning Petition, even
though the Baltimore County Zoning Checklist and the ethical
requirements governing the seal of a Property Line Surveyor
require that any such plan show all existing easements.
47. This case is a garden variety zoning matter which was
decided by the Baltimore County Board of Appeals based upon
the Plaintiff's request for zoning relief. The Defendants
had no dog in this fight. The Board of Appeals was requested
to essentially be the umpire of this matter, a dispute
between the Plaintiff as Petitioner and the Protestants. The
Board of Appeals conducted 7 days of hearings, a public
deliberation, and rendered a very thorough and rational
opinion in support of its denial of the Plaintiff's
Request for Special Exception.
48. The Church chose to purchase the property at its present
location, so any alleged deficiencies with that property were
49. There were many other properties in proximity to 821
Shawan or in other zoning districts that did not require a
special exception and were not burdened with a conservancy
50. The Church deliberately and deceptively submitted a
Petition and a Plan to accompany that Petition which did not
depict or reference the existing Deed of Conservancy Area
Easement which covered 70% of the property, including the
entire area where the Plaintiff proposed to build its Church
and attendant parking.
51. The Plaintiff has unclean hands.
52. The Board's decision speaks for ...