Posted by: Patricia Salkin | January 14, 2017

MD Court of Special Appeals Holds Development Rights and Responsibilities Agreement Froze a Broad Scope of Local Laws

Appellees, Eugene B. Casey Foundation (“Casey”) and Frederick County, Maryland, entered into a Development Rights and Responsibilities Agreement (“DRRA”), following its approval by the Board of County Commissioners for Frederick County (“BOCC”), to facilitate the development of Casey’s 634-acre property in Frederick County. Concurrent with the approval and execution of the DRRA, the BOCC approved Casey’s rezoning application, changing the zoning of the property from agricultural to planned unit development (“PUD”). Appellants, Cleanwater Linganore, Inc. (“CLI”), appealed these BOCC actions.
On appeal, CLI first contended that the Casey DRRA froze a broader scope of local laws than permitted legally, thereby rendering the BOCC’s approval and the County’s execution unlawful. The court determined that the DRRA was ambiguous on its face as to the intended scope of “the local laws, rules, regulations, and policies” that governed the use, density, or intensity of the property. By viewing relevant local provisions on a continuum from the most direct governance to the least contemplated by the freeze provision, the court found that zoning and subdivision would be located at one end and fees at the other, and that the freeze provision needed to contemplate local laws, rules, regulations, and policies that might fit between these two ends. Accordingly, the court held that the Maryland General Assembly intended the DRRA Act’s freeze provision to contemplate each of the genres of local laws listed in Article VIII § 8.1.B of the Casey–County DRRA; thus, the Casey DRRA did not freeze a broader scope of local laws than legally permitted.

Appellants next argued that the BOCC rezoned the Casey property without making the factual findings required by the Frederick County Code and State law regarding design and building siting, compatibility with neighboring land uses, and population growth. In the record, the BOCC stated that, because of the Casey property’s LDR designation and location in the Linganore CGA, “it is identified as an area that has been targeted for growth and development and is therefore consistent with the general policy in the Comprehensive Plan that supports the location of growth within growth areas.” The court therefore found that the BOCC made adequate findings supporting a favorable conclusion relative to the factors in FCC § 1–19–10.500.3(B). Additionally, the BOCC examined the Casey developments’ compatibility surrounding land uses: “landscape buffers between the project and Hall’s Choice Farm, the Audubon Property, and the Swanby Property will effectively mitigate potential inconsistencies between the project and the existing uses on those properties.” Lastly, the court found that the BOCC included the requisite findings regarding population growth. Accordingly, the court held that the BOCC had based its findings and ultimate rezoning decision on substantial evidence, and affirmed.

Cleanwater Linganore, Inc. v. Frederick County, 2016 WL 7449214 (MD 12/28/2016)


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