Baltimore County will have to wait awhile longer before finding out if its efforts to stop a Miami-based financier from building a 3,000-unit complex are successful.
Yesterday, Harford County Circuit Court Judge Maurice W. Baldwin Jr., sitting in Baltimore County Circuit Court, heard a full day of arguments on the issue, then said that he would make a ruling at a later date.
The county is seeking dismissal of a suit in which Security Management Corporation alleges that its constitutional rights were violated when the County Council declined to rezone 215 acres Security owns next to the Loch Raven Reservoir.
Security is seeking to to have the property rezoned so that it can build the development, called Colvista.
The council rejected Security's request, saying that it wanted to limit large, high-density residential development to the two growth centers, Owings Mills and White Marsh.
In the eight-count lawsuit, which seeks $10 million on each count, Security claims that the council's decision violated its constitutional rights of equal protection and due process.
Posner is principal
The company, whose principal stockholder is Miami-based financier Victor Posner, said that the council's action amounted to taking its land without just compensation.
The county asked that the case be dismissed, partly because Security has not exhausted its administrative remedies.
Security also has filed a rezoning request with the county Board of Appeals.
At stake in yesterday's hearing was whether or not Security can bypass the administrative process and go directly into court.
Thomas C. Beach 3rd, one of Security's attorneys, said a section of the Civil Rights Act allows parties to bypass the administrative process and seek relief in court.
If Security is forced to go through the Board of Appeals, its basis of appeal to the courts is very restricted.
The board can only determine if the council erred by keeping the existing zoning on the property. Should the board find no error, Security could appeal only on the grounds that the board made its decision in an arbitrary manner.
Should Security get into court first, it could argue all of its constitutional issues.
'There is no appeal...'
"There is no appeal from the council's decision, the decision that we allege violated our constitutional rights. Thus, we think that has exhausted our administrative remedy," Mr. Beach argued.
Michael J. McMahon, of the county Office of Law, and Peter Max Zimmerman, of the county People's Counsel, argued that Security's next step should be to go before the Board of Appeals.
The two said that Security needs to meet a higher standard than just claiming it was discriminated against.
"If you apply the standard Security wants in this case, then every comprehensive rezoning denied will end up in the court," said Mr. Zimmerman.
The county's attorneys also argued that the decision to keep the current zoning still allows Security to build 43 single-family homes and therefore doesn't amount to denying the owner an economic benefit from the property.