Legal challenge to `Comp Lite' should proceed, lawyer says

April 18, 2007|BY A SUN REPORTER

The legal challenge against the county's use of "Comp Lite" to rezone dozens of properties should proceed because motions to dismiss the case are "fundamentally inconsistent" and amount to the defendants trying to "have it both ways," a lawyer representing the opponents contends.

Those contradictions "present the opportunity, and perhaps the duty" of the court to decide whether Comp Lite is to be judged as a single legislative act by the county, or as a series of decisions, each of which must be judged individually, Katherine L. Taylor, an attorney representing the challengers, said in a filing opposing efforts to have the lawsuit dismissed. Taylor's filing is the latest in a flurry of motions that have been filed since she filed a lawsuit in October contesting Comp Lite.

Circuit Judge Dennis M. Sweeney has scheduled a hearing for May 18 on all motions.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of 14 residents. It claims that numerous state and county laws were violated, and it says that there was no legal basis for the Comp Lite process.

County officials have said that the process was a legal extension of the 2004 comprehensive rezoning, but in an acknowledgment of the controversy that has followed, indicated that Comp Lite will not be used again.

The Comp Lite legislation rezoned 38 properties and included 49 pages of amendments to the county's zoning regulations.

The lawsuit was filed after opponents failed to place a voter referendum on the Comp Lite legislation on the November election ballot. Although they had collected sufficient signatures to qualify for the referendum, the ballot measure was invalidated in June by the state Court of Special Appeals, which ruled that the ballot's wording was inadequate because it provided the public with too little information about what the measure would do.

A challenge of that ruling failed when the Court of Appeals, Maryland's highest court, declined to accept the case.

Taylor's latest motion, filed late last week, says that the defendants have filed two sets of motions that "are fundamentally inconsistent."

On one hand, her filing says, the defendants argue that to challenge Comp Lite one "must be specially aggrieved as a result of a particular zoning change" on a specific property. On the other hand, Taylor claims, the defendants have advanced to the court the argument that any person whose property was rezoned or has filed for rezoning or who may file must be a party to the case, or their legal rights will be violated.

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