Straight Up with Sherri

Sunday, July 10, 2005

The LORDSHIP of Judges........

Build condos – or go to jail
Judge threatening county planners with prison if development not OK'd

A judge in Maryland is threatening jail time for county planners if they don't approve a 254-townhouse project in a badly congested region, despite a shortage of water and a petition signed by 600 residents.

"What is the point of having commissioners if the county is going to be run by lawyers and judges?"
Carroll County Commissioner Dean Minnich told the Baltimore Sun. "All the decisions at this level of the courts seem to be pro-development."

According to the paper, the planning commission rejected the Eldersburg project last year, citing inadequate facilities in South Carroll, whose population has nearly tripled since 1980.

But Circuit Judge Michael M. Galloway agreed with developers that a previous ruling from six years ago was still valid, and on June 30, he ordered commissioners to OK the site plan for the rental complex in the county's most populous and fastest-growing area.

Benjamin Rosenberg, attorney for the developer, the Carrolltowne Development Partnership, said he'd demand jail time for members of the planning commission – including County Commission president Julia Walsh Gouge – if officials did not comply with the judge's decision.

Local roads are reportedly congested, schools are surrounded by portable classrooms, and the water supply is so stretched, officials have cut back on development until new sources of H2O can be found.

"They will find water for this project," Rosenberg told the Sun. "The county should have reserved water for this project in 1995. If need be, it will have to take water allocated to another project."

The ruling is prompting an outcry from some local residents.

One posted reaction in an online messageboard, decrying the judge's ruling:

"The citizens of Carroll County be damned. A developer wants to make some bucks. It's simple, go to court and have the judges become the final word on what is best for the county. Judges are becoming too powerful in this country. Their ilk are strictly out of touch with what is good and right for society. In this case, they overstepped their authority and are attempting to become legislators. For the sake of their citizens, I hope the board will unanimously ignore the judges. Their is no one the judges can go to to enforce the ruling. All the bench warrants in the world are not going to have the board arrested. No one will lift a finger to jail the board."

Now a judge can rule that elected officials must IGNORE voters and what is in the best interest of the community- or go to jail? HUH?


  • If the commissioners had not voted to allow the development 6 yrs ago, this would not be an issue. But they did, and the court is just telling the city that its decision is binding. Seems like common sense to me...cities should not be making such decisions lightly.

    Also, it's the developer's attorney that said he was going to ask for jail time...not the judge himself.

    By Anonymous soprano, at 4:18 PM  

  • Also of interest is that the city forced the developer's hand. The developer was contemplating putting a commercial property there, but the city then yanked the business zoning for the area. So the developer had only the residential plan to fall back on after that.

    By Anonymous soprano, at 4:24 PM  

  • soprano

    You raise some interesting points. What are your thoughts on the site being able to handle this development. If the elected officials were to allow further development without conditions needed don't you think this would be highly irresponsible?

    For instance, if I tell my son that when he turns 16 he can get his license, then when he turns 16, I cannot afford the insurance, which is more important? To keep my promise or work to overcome the obstacles in the way to make it SAFE for me to follow through with my promise?

    Devolpment is a great thing- but SMART GROWTH is the responsible way to go.

    By Blogger Straight Up with Sherri, at 5:07 PM  

  • I don't know how things work in Maryland (obviously not very well). In most places, a development plan cannot be approved if the infrastructure cannot support it. Had the developer begun work on the project immediately six years ago, I can see validity. But the authority is no longer in place from six years ago. There may or may not be the same commissioners, but the underlying circumstances are notoriously changed. If someone quoted you a price on a new Corvette six years ago, would this same judge rule that the dealer must deliver a new model today for the same price? That seems to be his logic.

    By Blogger Right Wing Nut Job, at 5:43 PM  

  • I'm thinking that the latest SCOTUS ruling on eminent domain strips this judge of all power to rule in this matter. Their justification was that the local elected officials were the only ones close enough to understand and define the issues. Remember that SCOTUS overturned prior judicial reviews in Kelo v. New London saying tyhat judges were unqualified to make these decisions!

    By Blogger Right Wing Nut Job, at 5:50 PM  

  • As I understand what is being said here -- somebody owns some land in a rapidly growing exurb. He wants to build on it. I am not entirely convinced that this is the county's business at all. 254 condos is not much in the context of greater Baltimore. I am not sure why a petition of 600 meighbors should even be heard.

    My understanding is that water was allocated to the project 6 years ago. It is also my understand that in regions of water shortage that old allocations have precedent over newer ones. This precedence is, however, foreign to Maryland law, as there are few if any states more blessed with ample fresh water than Maryland. I call bull-s**t on the water question.

    Another point, Carroll County can be called badly-congested by comparison to North-Central Tibet, but certainly not by comparison to any of the four counties which adjoin it.

    One point which might be relevant which is not clear from the post. Has the owner spent money in reliance on the 6-year-old permit?

    600 residents is fewer than the number of people who will wish to move into 254 condeos.

    I do not understand why my neighbors should have control over what I do with my land unless they have purchased an interest in said land.

    All-in-all, I believe that the judge here has defended the owner against a taking without compensation by the commissioners and has therefore upheld the 5th amendment.

    By Blogger levi from queens, at 7:58 PM  

  • levi,
    I agree that there is insufficient information here to know exactly what is happening. I hope I see follow-up on this case with more details.

    By Blogger Right Wing Nut Job, at 8:47 PM  

  • I think the judge should visit the area and let someone explain to him why it wouldn't be a good idea to build any condos right now. The judge probably doesn't stay in this county to understand what he is been told about why condos shouldn't be build right now, or maybe he is being pressured to get some condos in this town. I do not think it is right to throw people in jail because they will not build condos in an area that has might not have enuff water for some of the project that have been build in the past. A judge shouldn't determine what or where something should be build, but should rule whether a person's property can be taken or not. I would like to hear the outcome of this situation.(TB-8068)

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:52 PM  

  • I too feel that local judges are becoming too powerful. The only court that should have great power is the supreme court. Basically, the court is becoming the head of the government. This basically rules out the mayor, government, or maybe eventually the president. This is getting out of hand.


    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:11 PM  

  • I think the judge in this situtaion is overstepping his bounds. As a resident of the metro Atlanta area, I am all too familiar with overdevelopment. Atlanta is full of streets packed with too many commuters, a great majority of schools are at or over their capacity limits, and yet, new housing developments are going up. All of my ranting does not even include the effect of overdevelopment on the enviroment. Today, people need to be smarter about the decisions they make when it comes to development. Just because you can build it does not mean you should.-D.R. 6868

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:18 PM  

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