Magic bar case creates dangerous legal precedent

February 08, 2011

The article in today's Sun by John-John Williams IV ("Magic bar keeps live entertainment license," Feb. 8) reads like a compelling human interest story. However, it is factually inaccurate beginning with its title. There is no such "license" in Baltimore. So, how could the Federal Hill Neighborhood Association challenge something that does not exist?

FHNA did file a petition for judicial review and remand in response to a Board of Municipal Zoning Appeals (BMZA) grant that failed to precisely address the legal requirements specified by the provisions of the city zoning code.

Circuit Court Judge Audrey J.S. Carrion may have erred in upholding the city's motion to dismiss the petition for review, in effect finding that taxpaying homeowners and their respective community associations lack the legal standing required to appeal any decision by a city agency, such as the BMZA.

This decision could represent a dangerous legal precedent that threatens to deny the Constitutional right of due process to any residential property owner who feels aggrieved by a city agency's decision.

How many individual residential property owners can afford to hire a lawyer to defend their individual rights? That is why neighborhood associations are so important.

Absent a reversal of this decision, the only practical way to assure city residents their day in court is for the City Council to amend the charter to provide for a People's Counsel, a means of legal recourse now available to Baltimore County residents.

Paul W. Robinson, Baltimore

The writer is president of the Federal Hill Neighborhood Association.

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