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Annapolis Real Estate Law Blog

Maryland court strikes down referendum from grassroots group

The Court of Special Appeals in Maryland affirmed a decision by the Howard County Board of Elections superintendent to deny a planned referendum by a grassroots group. The group, Citizens Working to Fix Howard County, was hoping to put certain zoning changes passed by the county council up for a public vote in November.

While the group received more than the 5,390 signatures required to put a measure on the ballot, the court affirmed that the petition was misleading and inaccurate. It cited two items on the petition that were not part of the comprehensive zoning bill that had been passed by the Howard County Council. It also cited language claiming that Maple Lawn had been rezoned for higher intensity use as misleading.

How landowners can change the zoning on their property

Landowners and property developers in Maryland might want to learn about the different types of land use laws. The way a piece of property can be used by the landowner is governed by zoning regulations. If a landowner wishes to change the zoning of the property, they may decide to file an application to rezone the parcel.

Besides a complete zoning change, there are other means for a landowner to change how a piece of property can be used. For instance, an owner may decide to apply for a variance which would allow a landowner to do something different on their property that is normally not allowed in that particular area. In order to be granted a variance, the landowner would need to show that zoning regulations have created a hardship in the use of the property.

Examining contractor liability for defects in construction

Maryland homeowners may be interested in an article discussing some of the ways that a contractor can be held liable for faulty work. These various causes of action can help the homeowner enforce the construction agreements and achieve the desired remedy.

During the home-building process, the homeowner, contractors and subcontractors enter into various contracts in order to define what work is to be completed. When there are construction defects in the home, the homeowner will use these agreements to force the party who bears responsibility to fix the issue.

Construction defect causes and remedies

Maryland residents and businesses dealing with construction defects may want to know more about what causes a defect and how a person can be compensated for damages incurred as a result of a defect. The term "construction defect" applies to any deficiency in a new home or other building resulting from a failure to design or construct the building in a workmanlike manner or a failure of the building or a portion of the building to perform as intended.

In some cases, a person or business may suffer considerable damage if they must live in or work out of a building containing construction defects. For example, the market value of a home could suffer, or a person's health might be compromised by water intrusion that results in mold or mildew. Businesses may have to make unbudgeted building improvements in order to successfully operate their business in a building with structural defects.

New zoning changes in affect

Some homeowners in Maryland might benefit from learning more about how recent zoning changes may affect those involved in retirement or recreation. Two amendments to the Solomons Town Center and Calvert County zoning ordinances were approved on July 15. One amendment under consideration calls for adding the Employment Center to places that allow indoor commercial recreational facilities. The amendment allowing indoor recreational facilities in the EC is to be conditional. Indoor recreational facilities were previously designated to the Rural Commercial District, and with special permission, the Town Center zoning subareas as well.

Two county commissioners vocally opposed the initial proposition for allowing a special exception for including the Light Industrial District. One commissioner stated he had no issues with the commercial recreational facilities being in the EC zone, but noted that these businesses may serve best when located in the Town Center. The other commissioner expressed concern about the potential dangers of having children's recreational facilities located in close proximity to landfills and other industrial sites.

Board delays voting on Maryland casino project

After a July 14 public meeting, Prince George's County officials have decided to hold a vote on a $925 million casino and resort that would be located close to Washington D.C. The vote would have been held on the same day but was delayed until July 21 due to three of the council's members not being at the meeting.

The plan won support of voters in Maryland in 2012 and the support of the Prince George's county executive. However, those who are opposed to the development say that it would be too bright and would cause traffic issues in an area where traffic is already congested at times. It is said that the board's approval is the last major step that needs to take place before construction begins.

White Oak master plan in Maryland delayed

The Montgomery County Council voted to extend a deadline from July 17 to Sept. 15 to complete a master plan for White Oak. After the Sept. 15 deadline passes, there will be a blackout period related to land use issues starting on Nov. 1 until a new council takes over on Dec. 1. In addition to the master plan for White Oak, a sectional map amendment must also be created.

Although there are several weeks between the Sept. 15 deadline and the Nov. 1 blackout period, time must be allotted for public comments as well as to vote on and approve both the master plan and the sectional map amendment. Although some council members are annoyed that the approval process has taken so long, there are those who believe that there is enough time to complete the process. However, others say that the council is rushing a proposal through without proper traffic studies or a consideration for the long-term development of the area.

A push to bring back corner stores in Maryland

There is a movement in Remington to add a new zoning classification called "neighborhood commercial". This designation would allow property owners to turn residential properties into small corner stores or coffee shops that in theory would help to revive the community. In the 1940s, many neighborhoods had corner stores where residents could get a soda, buy groceries or simply chat with their neighbors.

However, a surge in crime combined with larger convenience stores with parking lots made the corner store a thing of the past. In the 1970s, zoning laws were rewritten, which caused any abandoned corner store to immediately revert back to residential property. However, new zoning laws would allow buildings that had been used as shops or stores in the past to be used for such a purpose once again.

Zoning issues blocks Renaissance festival's move

Fans of Renaissance fairs might be interested to know that the Maryland Renaissance Festival may not be moving to Lothian as hoped to accommodate its increasing attendance. A request was put in to move the event from Crownsville to Lothian where there would be around 100 more acres of space. Zoning approval for the festival was denied by a hearing officer of Anne Arundel County.

The location on which the festival had been taking place in Crownsville only gave participants 130 acres of land. The proposed location on a farm in Lothian offered 238 acres, but homeowners in the area said at a hearing that the event would be a burden on their community. The festival draws around 300,000 people each year. It recreates an English village during the time of King Henry VIII. The organizers still have a lease at the Crownsville location and plan to have the festival there in 2014. The festival is open on weekends from August 23 to October 19.

Huzzah, fair south Arundelers, Ren Fest willst not be in Lothian!

Success is sometimes not a blessing. The Maryland Renaissance Festival has become so popular over the past three decades that is has outgrown its site in Crownsville. Relocation, however, is a complicated process -- a complicated process that has just hit a major roadblock: Anne Arundel County's administrative hearing officer has denied the festival's request for a zoning exception that would have allowed it to move to what organizers thought would be a workable site.

If only residents near the site had shared that opinion. Residents and zoning officials have opposed the fair's move to rural Lothian in the southern part of the county. For the most part, their objections concern the increased traffic -- more vehicles and more people -- during the fair's run.