Posted by: Patricia Salkin | July 22, 2015

MD Court of Special Appeals Finds County Zoning Code “Residential Transition Area” Requirements Applied to Proposed Church

Ware appealed from a judgment affirming the Board’s decision denying her petitions for a special hearing and for zoning variances, both of which arose from her proposal to convert a single family home into a church. The appellees are the People’s Counsel for Baltimore County and 21 nearby residents who appeared before the Board as protestants and participated in the judicial review proceedings. As relevant to this case, a permitted use in a Density Residential zone must comply with section 1B01.1.B, which establishes “[d]welling-type and other supplementary use restrictions based on existing subdivision and development characteristics.” One such restriction pertains to residential transition areas (“RTA”), which are buffer and screening areas. Under this regulation a RTA is a “one-hundred-foot area, including any public road or public right-of-way, extending from a D.R. zoned tract boundary into the site to be developed.”

Ware first contended that the RTA conditions only applied to “dissimilar housing types”, and because she was proposing to change the use of the Property from a residential dwelling to a church, the Property need not comply with any RTA conditions. The court found, however, that If compliance with RTA conditions only would be required when a property owner proposed the development of a “dissimilar housing type,” there would be no need for the four exceptions for church uses, the exception for a child care center, or the exception for transit facility or rail passenger facility. Ware’s next argument, that she was not developing the property, likewise failed because although she did not pave or stripe the parking lot she had built, she poured gravel over the area to establish the lot and planted numerous trees to screen it.

Finally, the court upheld the Board’s finding that Ware’s site plan did not comply with the RTA use requirements because it proposed no buffer and no set back between the parking lot and the eastern boundary of the Property. The fact that the property was not compatible with the character and general welfare of the neighborhood provided even more of a substantial basis for the Board’s decision. Accordingly, the court affirmed the holding that the Board did not err by concluding that the RTA conditions applied to the Property.

Ware v People’s Counsel for Baltimore County, 2015 WL 4067997 (MD 7/2/2015)

The opinion can be accessed at: http://www.mdcourts.gov/opinions/cosa/2015/1008s14.pdf


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