The Prince George’s County Planning Board of the Maryland–National Capital Park and Planning Commission (“Planning Board”) approved the Comprehensive Design Plan (“CDP”) and Specific Design Plan (“SDP”) of appellee, Zimmer Development Company (“Zimmer”), to construct a retail center. The County Council of Prince George’s County, sitting as the District Council (the “District Council”), reversed the decision of the Planning Board the District Council held a public hearing and entertained oral argument regarding CDP–1001 and SDP–1001. One week after the hearing, the District Council issued an order remanding the case to the Planning Board to reconsider three issues (“the three remand issues”). The Board again approved Zimmer’s plan, and the District Court again exercised its authority to “call up” the case for a second time. On May 21, 2012, the District Council heard oral argument. Approximately thirty days later, the District Council issued a written opinion reversing the decision of the Planning Board and again denying Zimmer’s applications for both CDP–1001 and SDP–1001. In support of its decision, the District Council set forth fourteen specific grounds for denying Zimmer’s application. Zimmer petitioned the Circuit Court for Prince George’s County for judicial review. The circuit court reversed the decision of the District Council and reinstated the Planning Board’s approval of Zimmer’s CDP and SDP.
The District Council argued that each of its fourteen grounds in support of its decision to deny Zimmer’s application is supported by substantial evidence. The court found this argument to be moot since the District Council—as an appellate forum—is limited to determining whether the decision of the Planning Board was “arbitrary, capricious, discriminatory, or illegal.” Accordingly, when the District Council exercised its discretion to “call-up” CDP–1001 and SDP–1001 for a second time, it was limited to determining whether the Planning Board’s approval of CDP–1001 and SDP–1001 was “arbitrary, capricious, discriminatory, or illegal.” Therefore, when the District Council set forth additional grounds for reversing the Planning Board, it was acting outside its statutorily defined power by substituting its judgment for that of the Planning Board. As such, the District Council was found to have erred as a matter of law in reversing the Planning Board and denying Zimmer’s application.
City Council of Prince George’s County v Zimmer Development Company, 2014 WL 2208279 (MD 5/28/2014)
The opinion can be accessed at: http://www.mdcourts.gov/opinions/cosa/2014/0259s13.pdf