State Supreme Court Clears Way for Defunct Airport Redevelopment in Maryland

The legal controversies over a zoning amendment approved in 2019 went all the way to the top court in the state of Maryland, but by the time the court ruled, the Bowie City Council had already repealed the amendment in question.

2 minute read

August 28, 2023, 7:00 AM PDT

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell

A statue of Thurgood Marshall in the lawyers mall in front of Maryland General Assembly and the Supreme Court.

A statue of Thurgood Marshall in the lawyers mall in front of Maryland General Assembly and the Supreme Court. | Grandbrothers / Adobe Stock

A decision by the Maryland Supreme Court would have cleared the way for the redevelopment of townhomes on land occupied by a struggling airport in Prince George County, if the Bowie City Council hadn’t already changed its mind about a zoning amendment required to make the project happen.

“Many community members opposed the amendment, which singled out the Freeway Airport property to allow for higher-density housing than some surrounding areas,” according to an article by Madeleine O’Neill. “A group called the Concerned Citizens of Prince George’s County challenged the text amendment in court after it passed in 2019.”

“The airport is intended to be the only property affected by the amendment — which the Concerned Citizens group pointed to as evidence that the change violated the ‘uniformity requirement’ by treating a single property favorably,” reports O’Neill.

The Maryland State Supreme Court found, however, that the zoning amendment “furthered a valid public purpose and did not discriminate between similarly situated properties” (because there are no similarly situated properties).

But this story has a twist: a change of elected representatives on the Bowie City Council began their tenures in the intervening years and rescinded the zoning amendment before the Supreme Court could rule.

“The Concerned Citizens group asked to dismiss the case because the new bill rendered the legal battle moot,” according to O’Neill. “But the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case anyway,” expecting that the issues at stake in the case would set precedent for future land use decisions.

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