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People’s Counsel for Baltimore County v. Loyola College in Maryland

Court of Appeals of Maryland
956 A.2d 166 (2008)


Facts

Loyola College in Maryland (Loyola) (defendant) contracted to purchase a parcel of land (the property) in Baltimore County. Loyola sought to use the land as a retreat center for weekend spiritual retreats. However, Baltimore County zoning law did not permit, as of right, the use of the property as a school or a college, church, or camp. Loyola applied for a special exception. After a three-day hearing, the hearing officer granted the special exception and approved Loyola’s development plan. A group of citizens called Citizens Against Loyola Multi-use Center (Citizens) (plaintiffs) opposed the special exception and the development plan, and appealed the hearing officer’s decision. In a six-day hearing, the Baltimore County Board of Appeals (the Board) reviewed the special exception de novo, conducted an appeal on the record on the development plan, and considered voluminous evidence from both parties. However, the Board rejected the argument by Citizens that Loyola was required to prove there were no other locations in the property’s zone in Baltimore County where the proposed use would have less of an adverse effect than on the property’s local neighborhood. Accordingly, the Board ignored Citizens’ evidence that there were other areas in the zone that would be less adversely affected. Loyola presented no contrary evidence on that point. The Board affirmed the hearing officer’s grant of a special exception and approval of the development plan. Citizens appealed to the circuit court, which held that the Board had erred as a matter of law. Loyola then appealed to the intermediate appellate court, which reversed the circuit court and reinstated the Board’s decision. Citizens and the People’s Counsel for Baltimore County (plaintiff) then petitioned the Court of Appeals of Maryland for a writ of certiorari on the legal question of whether a special-exception applicant must produce, and whether the zoning body must consider, evidence that the adverse effects of the proposed use at the proposed location would be less than at other locations in the same zone.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Harrell, J.)

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