In 2002, Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission’s General Plan set an objective of limiting the percentage of dwelling unit growth in the Rural Tier of Prince George’s County through the year 2025 to less than one percent (the objective). A few years later, the Prince George’s County Planning Board of the Commission (hereinafter the commission) approved a preliminary subdivision plan submitted by Archers Glen Partners, Inc. (hereinafter Developer) for construction of nineteen homes in a development to be known as Bennington Farms. It would be located in the Rural Tier and adjoin Developer’s “sister” subdivision (Archers Glen). Citizens, appellants here, then petitioned for judicial review. The Developer agreed that further administrative findings were necessary, so the case was remanded to the commission who then approved an amended resolution approving the preliminary subdivision plan. Citizens again petitioned for judicial review in the Circuit Court who affirmed the commission’s decision. Citizens appeal.
On this appeal, the citizens raised three issues: (1) Does the commission have standing; (2) did the commission adequately articulate factual findings regarding the objective; and (3) is there substantial evidence in the administrative record to support the commission’s finding that the preliminary plan is not inconsistent with the objective.
The Court said that the first issue is moot because another appellant, Developer, has standing.
In regards to the second issue, the Court stated that the objective is binding on the commission though it does have discretion in its interpretation and application of the objective to a preliminary subdivision plan. Despite this discretion, if a citizen’s testimony raises a material issue as to compliance with the objective, the commission must address the effect the preliminary plan application may have on the objective and to note such factual findings in such a manner as to permit appellate review. The commission must either offer some analysis of how the preliminary subdivision under consideration may impact the objective or explain why such an analysis is not necessary. The Court determined that the commission did articulate sufficient factual findings regarding the objective. The Court pointed to certain language in the amended resolution wherein the last sentence says that “[t]he nineteen lots created by this subdivision are not in conflict with the hundreds of dwelling units envisioned in the Rural Tier over the next approximate 20 years, given one percent of the County’s residential growth in that time frame.” The Court said this was sufficient analysis.
The Court further concluded that there was substantial evidence to support the commission’s finding that approval of the preliminary plan for Bennington Farms was not inconsistent with the objective. In so finding, the Court pointed to the administrative record, concluding that the administrative record contained sufficient relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support the conclusion that the preliminary plan was not inconsistent with the objective.
Naylor v. Prince George’s County Planning Bd, 200 Md. App. 309 (Md. App. 8/31/2011)
The opinion can be accessed at: http://www.courts.state.md.us/opinions/cosa/2011/2809s08.pdf