Last week, a Prince George's County Circuit Court Judge roundly rejected an appeal filed by local residents Jason Amster and Carol Nezz, of College Park and University Park, which sought to overturn the decision of the Prince Georges County District Council to rezone the Cafritz Tract in Riverdale Park.
Judge Krystal Alves wrote in her ruling "that the District Council applied the correct principals of law" when it rezoned the Cafritz tract to allow a mixed-use town center anchored by a Whole Foods grocery store to be built on the property.
Alves' ruling touched on eight arguments put forth by attorneys for the residents opposed to the project.
Alves found the first argument, that the District Council lacked jurisdiction to hear the rezoning case because the Prince George's Planning Board failed to send along its recommendation to the District Council within 105 days as required by law, without merit because no one raised this objection with the District Council at the time.
"Many Maryland cases have consistently held that issues not properly preserved for judicial review cannot be considered by the reviewing court," wrote Alves.
Further, Alves also wrote that the procedural violation was not substantial enough to warrant reversing or remanding the District Council's decision over.
The second argument, that the District Council's decision should be reversed, under a legal principle called the Accardi Doctrine, because it did not follow its own procedures when it deliberated on the rezoning, was also rejected by Alves, who found that the allegations of procedural impropriety were too minor to have had a prejudicial effect on the outcome of the District Council's decisions.
"Each of the petitioners' alleged points of procedural error constitute harmless error or fall within the Acardi exception allowing agencies to depart from procedural rules for the orderly transaction of agency business," wrote Alves.
Alves also rejected arguments that Calvert Tract, LLC did not comply with state ethics laws. The plaintiffs "contested the claim" that developers submitted ethics disclosure forms before a legal deadline, but Alves found no evidence of this.
Another argument made by the plaintiffs, which Alves also rejected, was both that the District Council lacked the authority to apply conditions to the rezoning and that Calvert Tract LLC did not accept the conditions in writing within 90 days.
Citing the statue which outlines and interprets the authority of the Planning Board, Alves wrote that a plain reading of the law clearly give it the authority to apply conditions to rezoning decisions. Alves also found that there was no requirement for the developers to then accept or reject the District Council's rezoning decision conditions.
Alves also found that the District Council did not err when it adopted the findings and conclusions of the Planning Board, did not engage in illegal spot zoning, did not violate any due process rights, and that the developers had standing to apply for the rezoning.
EDIT: - An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified the plaintiffs. the error has been fixed.