Whalou property remains designated for agriculture
By BRUCE HOTCHKISS
WYE MILLS, Md. — A 216-acre farm field directly across Rt. 50 from the campus of Chesapeake College, long-targeted by Queen Anne’s County officials for future business and light industrial development opportunities, will remain a farm field, at least for now.
In a 14-page opinion, issued on Aug. 7, Judge Sidney S. Campen Jr., sitting in Queen Anne’s County Circuit Court, held that the recent rezoning of the property from agricultural to light industrial highway services was invalid.
The rezoning of the so-called Whalou property was part of a “comprehensive rezoning” approved by the commissioners last November by a 3-2 vote.
It involved a total of 11 properties, including three other properties with a total of 308 acres zoned for agriculture. Fourteen county taxpayers, backed by four organizations — the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, the Midshore Riverkeepers Association, the Chesapeake Wildlife Federation and the Queen Anne’s Conservation Association — challenged the action, claiming in the lawsuit that the rezonings violated the intent and provisions of the county’s Comprehensive Plan.
Judge Campen essentially agreed.
“For a rezoning ordinance to pass muster,” he wrote, “even in the context of a comprehensive rezoning, it must be consistent with the Comprehensive Plan.”
Further, Campen wrote, “A local legislative body ... does not enjoy boundless discretion in carrying out comprehensive rezoning. Rather a legislative body must act within its legal boundaries. If the legislative action exceeds the acting agency’s legal authority, the courts have the power to correct the extra legal conduct pursuant to their original jurisdiction.”
The three other farm properties involved in the rezoning and in the suit were: The Sattelmaier property, 80 acres in Chester, south of Rt. 50; the Foster property, 173 acres off College Park Drive, just east of the Chesapeake College campus; and the Sylvester property, 55 acres of a larger tract at the northeast corner of Routes 404 and 309.
While granting summary judgment to the plaintiffs on the Whalou property, Campen withheld it on the other three, contending that although “the plaintiffs have made a prima facie showing with respect to the rezoning of the three remaining properties at issue ... the County Commissioners have not adequately demonstrated or set forth facts ... to show they addressed the consistency requirements of the Comprehensive Plan.”
He said there were too many “disputed issues of material fact” to allow the issuance of a summary judgment.