Posted by: Patricia Salkin | May 7, 2015

MD Court of Appeals Upholds Dismissal of Challenge to County’s Comprehensive Rezoning Ordinance on Standing Grounds

After the initial declaratory judgment complaint was dismissed with leave to amend, community organizations and property owners filed an amended complaint for declaratory judgment and equitable relief against Anne Arundel County, challenging their comprehensive rezoning ordinance. The Circuit Court dismissed the complaint for lack of standing and failure to state a claim, and the organizations and owners appealed. When the Court of Special Appeals reversed and remanded, the County filed a petition for writ of certiorari, which was granted.

In analyzing the plaintiff’s claim, the court first stated that in order to establish eligibility to maintain a suit under the taxpayer standing doctrine, a plaintiff must allege: (1) that the complainant is a taxpayer; and (2) that the suit is brought, either expressly or implicitly, on behalf of all other taxpayers. Here, one respondent, Ms. Harrison, alleged that her taxes would be increased, satisfying the requirement that she allege pecuniary loss. However, because Respondents waived the taxpayer standing argument, the court did not consider whether Ms. Harrison alleged sufficiently that Respondents’ suit was brought on behalf of all other taxpayers situated similarly, or if she alleged sufficiently a nexus between the challenged illegal or ultra vires act and pecuniary loss suffered by her. The court therefore affirmed the judgment of the trial court to dismiss Respondents’ Second Amended Complaint.

Anne Arundel County v Harwood Civic Association, 2015 WL 1798950 (MD 4/21/2015)

The opinion can be accessed at:

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