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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.

Despite the fact that the judge agreed with the Board of Elections to deny the referendum, the judge admonished the lack of reasoning given for the denial. The ruling stated that this could open the door for other referendums to be sidelined until it is too late to do anything about it. However, the imprecise and misleading language in the petition was more alarming to the court than the actions taken to keep it from the ballot in November.

Zoning laws in a particular area are created to make the best use of public property. Property is supposed to be placed in an area that can attract businesses without creating traffic or pollution issues. These issues could make the area unattractive for people or families who may wish to buy residential properties. Citizens or others who wish to challenge zoning laws may wish to hire a real estate attorney who may be able to help them file legal action in a court and possibly get zoning changes delayed or overturned.

Source: The Baltimore Sun, "Special appeals court strikes down Howard zoning referendum", Amanda Yeager, August 13, 2014

Source: The Baltimore Sun, "Special appeals court strikes down Howard zoning referendum", Amanda Yeager, August 13, 2014

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