Courts Limit Prince George’s Council Planning Role

The Maryland Court of Special Appeals has held that the Prince George’s County Council, is limited in its role as the “District Council” to appellate level review of zoning decisions made by the Prince George’s County Planning Board of the Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission.  (In Prince George’s, the County Council also sits as the “District Council” and reviews zoning matters.)

The May 28 decision in the case of County Council of Prince George’s County v. Zimmer Development Company found that the District Council does not have original jurisdiction over zoning issues and instead is limited to an appellate review of whether the Planning Board’s decision was arbitrary, capricious, discriminatory, or illegal.

In the case at hand, the Planning Board approved  design plans submitted by Zimmer for the construction of a retail center.  The District Council reversed the Planning Board’s decision for a variety of reasons and Zimmer challenged in circuit court.  The circuit court upheld the Planning Board’s approval and the District Council appealed to the Court of Special Appeals.

The Court of Special Appeals relied on precedent established in the case of County Council of Prince George’s County v. Curtis Regency, 121 Md. App. 123 (1998) in reaching its holding regarding the District Council.  From the Zimmer holding:

Taken together, the pertinent provisions of the [Prince George’s County Code], read in conjunction with the [Maryland Regional District Act], leads us to conclude that the District Council is vested with appellate jurisdiction, not original jurisdiction, over zoning matters. As such, the District Council is limited to deciding whether the Planning Board’s decision was “arbitrary, capricious, discriminatory, or illegal.”

Curtis Regency, supra, 121 Md. App. at 137-38.

The Court of Special Appeals also considered whether Zimmer had standing to maintain a petition for judicial review.