Posted by: Patricia Salkin | November 10, 2016

MD Court of Special Appeals Holds Zoning Board had Jurisdiction to Review Planning Commission’s Action

In 2010, the Baltimore City Council enacted Ordinance No. 10–397, which established a PUD, called the “25th Street Station PUD,” on an eleven acre parcel located in the Remington and Charles Village neighborhoods. In 2013, the Planning Commission considered and approved an amendment to the PUD design, and the appellants appealed the Commission’s decision to the Board. The Board held a hearing, but did not reach the merits of appellants’ contentions: deciding that it did not have the authority to consider appeals from decisions by the Planning Commission.

The court found that the plain language of § 10–404(a) authorized the Board to review the Planning Commission’s decision. Specifically, LU § 10–404(a)(1) authorizes the Board to hear appeals “when it is alleged that there was an error in any … decision … made by an administrative official or unit under this title or any local law adopted under this title.” The City next argued that the PUD modification was an “administrative adjustment” as described in LU § 4-205 and that the local legislative body had discretion to choose whether to authorize the Board to hear appeals from these types of decisions. However, before a local government can provide for administrative adjustments, LU § 4–205(c) requires that the local legislative body adopt criteria for granting applications. Here, BCZC § 9-118(c) contained no such criteria.

The City’s final argument was that § 86 of the Charter precluded the Board from considering any decision of the Planning Commission. The court determined that the City’s argument failed because the provisions of local government charters cannot preempt public general laws such as LU § 10–404(a)(1). Because the Planning Commission was acting in an administrative capacity when it approved the design modifications to the PUD, appellants had the right of appeal to the Board via LU § 10–404(a)(1). Accordingly, the court held that the Board erred in dismissing appellants’ appeal for lack of jurisdiction.

Viles v. Board of Municipal and Zoning Appeals, 2016 WL 6276908 (MD. 10/27/2016)

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