Board of Appeals Enters Judgment Against Developer in Chestnut Ridge Golf Course Reclassification Case


Summary

The Baltimore County Board of Appeals has declined to reverse the decision of the County Council to rezone the former Chestnut Ridge Country Club property enacted during the 2012 quadrennial Comprehensive Zoning Map Process (CZMP).  This will leave the developable density for the property at a maximum of 9 houses.

Details

In 2012 the County Council changed the zoning of the 232 acre former Chestnut Ridge Country Club property from RC5 (maximum development) to RC7 (environmental preservation). Shortly thereafter, the owner of the property, hoping to subdivide the Property into as many as 85 lots, petitioned the County to reclassify the Property to RC5, claiming that the County Council’s action was a mistake.

Last summer, after the developer finally finished putting on all its evidence, the Community asked the County Board of Appeals to dismiss the Petition. The Community argued that, even if the Board accepted all the evidence as true, the developer could not prevail.

This morning the three member Board panel deliberated in public. The non-lawyer member stated that he thought the Petitioner’s evidence was overwhelming and that he was convinced the Council’s decision to change the zoning of the property was wrong and should be changed.

The next member of the Board to speak said that, although he basically agreed with the first speaker, as a Maryland lawyer, he understood the law, in particular the 1995 Beachwood case (107 Md. App. 627), to be clear and controlling and that the BOA was not permitted to reclassify the zoning of the Property.

The Board chair, Maureen Murphy, Esquire, then spoke at length. She summarized relevant MD law, emphasizing the instructions of the Beachwood case:

— the BOA “may not substitute its judgment for that of the County Council,”

— even a finding by BOA that the zoning decision “of the County Council under review was wrong, ill-advised, or unsuitable is not an adequate finding of an actual mistake or error,”

— the burden is on the Petitioner “to show both 1) the then-existing conditions that allegedly made the comprehensive zoning incorrect and also 2) the literal failure of the County Council even to have considered those conditions,”

— It is presumed that at the time of the adoption of zoning, “the Council had before it and did, in fact, consider all of the relevant facts and circumstances then existing.”

Accordingly, the Board voted 2 to 1 to grant the Motions and enter Judgment against the developer. The developer may, of course, appeal the decision. Moreover, the developer is asserting tremendous pressure on the County Executive, Council, and particularly 2nd District Council Member Vicky Almond to allow the destruction of this incredibly beautiful and environmentally sensitive land.