The Court of Appeals held in Greater Towson Council of Community Associations v. DMS Development, LLC, 234 Md. App. 388, 172 A.3d 939 (2017), that Greater Towson Council of Community Associations, an umbrella organization, did not have standing to challenge a proposed planned unit development (“PUD”) known as 101 York PUD at York Road and Burke Avenue in Baltimore County.
DMS Development, LLC proposed to develop the property for dormitory rooms for Towson University students and requested a waiver of the local open space requirement for PUDs. After a community input meeting, the administrative law judge approved a waiver of the open space requirement, subject to payment of a fee of $1,358,084.00. The Planning Board approved the PUD but reversed as to the fee. The County Council designated a zero dollar waiver fee, and the Board of Appeals approved that.
Appeals were filed in the Circuit Court for Baltimore County, and DMS claimed that Greater Towson Council lacked standing. The circuit court thought that Greater Towson Council had standing and ruled on the merits – in favor of the PUD and the open space waiver.
Greater Towson Council appealed to the Court of Special Appeals. That court noted that standing requirements are very lax to appear before a Board of Appeals: anyone who alleges having an interest in a matter being considered may become a party to the proceedings. On the other hand, the standards for standing for judicial review are more stringent. For judicial review, a person must have been a party to the administrative proceedings and must be “aggrieved” by the decision.
To determine whether persons are “aggrieved,” courts look at the proximity of their properties to the site in question. Generally, challengers who are adjacent or very close are considered “specially damaged.” Challengers must own property within 200 to 1,000 feet to be prima facie aggrieved.
Following this rule, for an association in Maryland to have standing to appeal an administrative land use decision it must be “aggrieved.” An association does not have standing when it does not own property of its own, even if its members do.
Greater Towson Council is an association of neighborhood associations. It did not own any property. Therefore, the Court of Special Appeals held that Greater Towson Council was not “aggrieved,” and so it did not have standing to appeal the decision of the Board of Appeals. One of Greater Towson Council’s constituent associations did own a small park near 101 York Road, but that was not sufficient to make Greater Towson Council “aggrieved.”
For questions, please contact Ed Levin (410) 576-1900.