Suit would invalidate General Plan Action would also halt rezoning

August 11, 1993|By James M. Coram | James M. Coram,Staff Writer

Five activists wanting to slow Howard County's growth have filed suit asking that the county's 1990 General Plan and the 1992 comprehensive rezoning of the west be declared invalid.

The suit also asks that the County Council sitting as the Zoning Board be enjoined from taking any further action to comprehensively rezone the eastern portion of the county.

"We're asking for a sweet, simple declaratory judgment," said Highland resident Susan Gray, one of the five plaintiffs.

Ms. Gray said she and the other plaintiffs -- Thomas Horvath of West Friendship, Jean Iampieri Quattlebaum of Ellicott City, Gary Prestianni of Jessup and Pauline Sieverding of Elkridge -- filed the suit because they believe that most county residents are "almost over

whelmingly against" the General Plan and the rezoning.

"They have absolutely no recourse" for defeating a plan they vehemently oppose, she said. "People should have the power to make decisions on things that affect their lives. That decision has been taken out of the hands of the people. That is not what the state constitution intended."

The remedy Ms. Gray and the

other plaintiffs are seeking is for the General Plan and comprehensive rezonings to be enacted by County Council bills.

Council bills can be vetoed by the county executive and are subject to voter petitions. If a petition has the requisite number of valid signatures, the bill is put on hold until the next election when voters decide whether to uphold it.

Resolutions cannot be vetoed and are not subject to referendum.

See SUIT, 9B

From 1B

"I want to see [zoning issues] decided in a way that will allow them to be subject to voter referendum," Ms. Gray said.

The 1990 General Plan was adopted by resolution of the council and the 1992 comprehensive rezoning of the western portion of the

county was accomplished by a Sept. 18, 1992, decision and order of the council sitting as the Zoning Board. Decisions and orders of the Zoning Board can be appealed to the Circuit Court.

"I'll leave it to the Zoning Board attorney to respond, but Susan [Gray] probably has things all confused," said Councilman C. Vernon Gray, a 3rd District Democrat and the Zoning Board chairman. "I think she's mixing apples and oranges, although it makes sense to her."

The county General Plan, which

by law is revised every few years, is not itself a law, Mr. Gray said. It is, therefore, passed by the council as a resolution rather than a bill, he said.

The Zoning Board issues decisions and orders, he said, because the board is operating in a quasi-judicial function. Ms. Gray contends that comprehensive rezoning is a legislative function.

"I'm a little surprised that the suit is coming three years after the General Plan [was adopted] and some 10 months after the rezoning of the west," Mr. Gray said.

"It is her right to bring a suit, though," he said. "We shall see how it works out."

Ms. Gray said the county has 30 days in which to respond to her suit and that she hopes that it will be heard in Circuit Court as soon as possible thereafter.

The suit was filed in Circuit Court on Monday and delivered to county officials yesterday.

It names the county, the Zoning Board and the County Council as defendants.

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