Zoning Appeals Board in court for failing to follow its own rules
Appeals wait months while building continues
Baltimore — On Wednesday, October 20, the Board of Municipal and Zoning Appeals will be defended in Circuit Court by the City Law Department.
At issue is whether the Zoning Board failed to follow its own rules about construction and appeals.
Joan L. Floyd, the Green Party candidate for City Council President, will be one of the parties present in the court room on Wednesday.
“In the spring of 2004, in two appeals involving a controversial construction project, the Zoning Board first agreed that the permit issued three months earlier was invalid; then it ruled that it had been proper for the City’s Zoning Administrator to allow construction during those three months under that invalid permit,” said Floyd. “Common sense and the Zoning Board’s own rules mandate that a builder stop construction if an appeal on that construction permit is pending. “
At that hearing, several City neighborhoods were represented by attorney J. Carroll Holzer who read out the Zoning Board rule to the Board members, some of whom appeared to be unfamiliar with it, noted Floyd. Wednesday’s hearing, at which attorney Holzer will plead the residents’ case before Circuit Court Judge Stewart, will review that Spring 2004 decision and determine whether the rule must be followed.
Appeals are filed with the Zoning Board when citizens believe that a permit is issued in violation of the zoning code. Allowing construction to continue while the permit is under appeal might not be as big a problem if appeals were heard quickly. However, Floyd notes that construction permit appeals have languished for months at the Zoning Board Office before being heard, even though State law requires that appeals be heard and decided in a “reasonable time”.
“This is an important issue to the citizens of Baltimore,” says Floyd. “If the construction isn’t stopped when an appeal to the Board is filed, and the appeal isn’t heard for several months, an awful lot of illegal construction can occur before a ruling is issued on a permit.”
Floyd believes that the combination of not stopping construction and hearing delays may have a “chilling effect” on citizens’ appeals.
“When the Zoning Administrator fails to stop construction during the appeals process, citizens are less likely to exercise their right to appeal, because they realize the building may get built before their appeal is heard. So why bother,” says Floyd. “This is extraordinarily bad public policy; construction should stop on any project for which the permit has been appealed, and citizen appeals should be heard in a timely matter.”
For more information, email to [email protected]
Carole Schreck, Treasurer
October 19, 2004
Joan Floyd’s campaign
Baltimore Green Party