Petition appeal denied on expanded Turf Valley project

Federal appeals court dismisses case

March 31, 2011|By Larry Carson, The Baltimore Sun

Opponents of a large supermarket at a proposed Turf Valley shopping center in Ellicott City lost another court challenge in their two-year effort to revive a petition drive that sought to put the project's zoning approval on a Howard County election ballot.

The 4th U.S. Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va., upheld Monday an earlier U.S. District Court dismissal of a constitutional argument brought by Paul Kendall. The appeals court ruled there are no federal constitutional issues involved in the case.

There's still one pending court action. Last April, Howard Circuit Judge Timothy J. McCrone ruled that the Howard County election board acted properly and in accordance with state law in disqualifying signatures on petitions that sought to bring the issue before the voters in a referendum. The decision is now being challenged before the state Court of Special Appeals.

That action was brought by Marc Norman and his group, the Howard County Citizens for Open Government. Norman says he will ultimately prevail despite the setback in federal appeals court. He's hoping the names on his petitions will be ordered valid under the new interpretation of Maryland's signature laws in a March 22 Court of Appeals decision in a Montgomery county case.

"This will be on the ballot in 2012," Norman said Wednesday.

But Howard County election board attorney Gerald M. Richman said there is no legal basis for Norman's prediction, and no constitutional issue involved. "This isn't voting. This is a step removed," Richman said, referring to the referendum laws. He also argued that, regardless, "It's too late to go back."

Richman said "the plaintiff … lacks factual support for any potential reversal or appeal," although Norman vehemently disagreed.

Mangione Family Enterprises, owner of Turf Valley, is working on a massive redevelopment of the 809-acre hotel and golf course property. The project would add more than 1,300 new homes, plus offices and stores, including the shopping center near Marriottsville Road and U.S. 40 that the County Council rezoned in late 2008 to allow for a 55,000-square-foot supermarket instead of a much smaller store originally envisioned. The size of the entire center did not change, however.

The Mangiones still don't have a county building permit for the center, but grading and site preparation work is nearing completion, and they hope to start construction this year, a spokeswoman said.

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