List of District 12 candidates grows

The pool of 2014 hopefuls continues to grow, and the water is particularly warm in wide-open District 12, where all three State House delegates have announced their intention to retire at the end of the 2014 session.

Eight candidates — all Democrats — so far have filed for a chance to represent the district, which incorporates parts of Howard and Baltimore counties. And at least one more is expected to be joining the race soon.

Democrat Nick Stewart, a former O'Malley speechwriter and business lawyer who lives in Arbutus, is holding his campaign kickoff on Thursday, Oct. 10, according to a campaign email. The event will be held at Dan Whipps Photography in Arbutus. Stewart said he will turn in his paper work on Tuesday, Oct 15.

Appeals board votes to uphold standing

In a sometimes tense work session Oct. 3, the county Board of Appeals voted to uphold the right of a Columbia gas station owner, who said his business would be harmed by a plan to build a new gas station nearby, to bring his case before the board.

The case in question centered on a request from the Giant food store at Columbia Palace Plaza, on Centre Park Drive, to obtain a conditional use permit to build a gas station in the shopping center's parking lot.

Three residents of a neighborhood across the street from the shopping center, as well as Sean Maumood, who owns a gas station a few businesses down on the opposite side of Centre Park Drive, opposed the project.

In two 3-2 votes on July 15, board members voted to grant standing to Maumood in the case and to deny Giant's request.

But at the end of an unrelated hearing on Sept. 11, Board member James Howard requested that the board reconsider Maumood's standing in light of a Baltimore land-use case called Benn Ray.

The board held a work session to discuss Howard's request, despite the objections of Maumood's lawyer, Bill Erskine, who alleged that the board had broken the state's Open Meetings Act by not giving advance notice of the Sept. 11 meeting.

Board Chairman John Lederer dismissed Erskine's accusations. At the meeting, he said, "There was no discussion regarding the merits of the case, the merits of the standing issue."

Howard and fellow Board member Maurice Simpkins supported overturning standing, as they had in the earlier decision. Lederer said he wished Maumood had offered more proof that a gas station in the Columbia Palace parking lot would damage his business.

"We can't let everybody and anybody bring a case," he said. "The evidence just isn't there; I haven't seen it."

But Board members James Walsh and Henry Eigles said they were concerned about setting a precedent for very high standards for standing.

"I'm worried about erring on the other side by setting the bar so high that nobody is ever going to be able to have [standing]," Walsh said.

The board ultimately replicated its original vote, with Howard and Simpkins voting to overturn Maumood's standing and Lederer, Walsh and Eigles voting to uphold.