Maryland’s Highest Court Upholds Frederick County’s Decision On Monrovia Town Center

It says the County’s Ethics Statutes were violated.                                                                     


Frederick, Md (KM) Maryland’s highest court has ruled in favor of Frederick County regarding the Monrovia Town Center project. In its 50-page opinion, the Court of Appeals said the County Council was within its rights to demand a new hearing on the developers rezoning application, and supported a lower court’s decisions that said the County’s Ethics Statute had been violated.

“I think it was an outstanding decision, just a great way to finish up such a long and hard fought battle,” says Councilman Steve McKay. Prior to being elected to the Council, McKay was the President of the Residents Against Landsdale Expansion, which fought against this development.

The rezoning of 450-acres of agricultural land located near Routes 75 and 80 was approved by the last Board of County Commissioners in 2013. It cleared the way for the construction of more than 1200 new homes.

Residents in that area strongly opposed the project, claiming the roads could not handle the increased traffic, noting the State had no plans to widen Route 75.

There was also outrage among citizens of that area during the final night of hearings on the project, when a letter purportedly from the Frederick Area Committee on Transportation was produced, which expressed support for the project. . “It was actually after the record was supposed to have been closed, at least after all public comment was done. And then old {then Commissioners’ President}   Blaine Young pulled it out, and started reading it, attributed to the entire FACT Committee when that was not correct. {then-Commissioner}  Paul Smith sat there silently, not disclosing the fact that he had a part and a role in concocting the letter,” McKay said.

Opponents took the case to court. A Circuit Court Judge, citing the ethics violation, vacated the County Commissioners’ decision, and sent it back to the County Council, which said the developers must go through the process again.

He said the developers, Payne Investments LLC and 75-80 Properties LLC, dismissed the allegations that this action was contrary to local ethics laws, saying the local ethics law was ambiguous. . “They tried to argue that it required additional due process proceedings And the Court of Appeals said no. It didn’t. It was very unambiguous. And this was the proper remedy the Circuit Court did,” says McKay.

“This is a huge win for the people of Monrovia,” said County Executive Jan Gardner, in a statement. “The County joined with citizens to ensure good government and open, public processes  prevailed.”

But the developers could bring the rezoning request back to the county. “And they may,” McKay said. “That’s their right. But, hopefully, they’ve learned a few things along the way.”


By Kevin McManus