Supreme Court Declines to Hear Appeal of Local Zoning Authority in Harford Landfill Case

Earlier this week, the U.S. Supreme Court potentially ended the decades-long legal dispute between Harford County and Maryland Reclamation Associates, Inc. (MRA) by declining to review a case that could have set a new precedent on property takings through inverse condemnation.

The Supreme Court let stand without comment the Maryland Court of Appeals’ ruling overturning a previous jury decision which would have forced the County to pay $45 million in damages and interest to MRA. The central argument in the ruling was that MRA had not exhausted the administrative process by bringing their claim before the Board of Appeals.

MRA sought to establish a rubble landfill outside of Havre de Grace in the early 1990s. However, the County denied multiple applications from MRA for zoning variances and MRA initiated litigation. In 2010, the Maryland Court of Appeals ruled that the County was lawfully exercising its zoning authority in denying the variances. In response, MRA sued the County again in 2013, arguing that the County’s actions had devalued its property and sought damages. This led to a jury award of $45 million in Circuit Court. Upon review, the Court of Special Appeals agreed with one of the County’s motions to dismiss since MRA failed to file suit before the statute of limitations expired.  However, the Court of Appeals instead chose to base their ruling on MRA’s failure to exhaust the administrative process.

From a Harford County press release:

Harford County Executive Barry Glassman, who in 1991 was on the County Council representing the area when the case began, issued the following statement in response to Tuesday’s Supreme Court decision:

“This victory belongs to the citizens of Harford County, especially those who first stood up to protect their community. It also vindicates our decision not to use county tax dollars to pay MRA to settle the case. Instead, we successfully defended our position that local governments have the ability to adopt responsible development regulations.”

For more information, view the full press release, and previous Conduit Street coverage.