Success for an Anne Arundel County business in the zoning arena, and for a needed environmental permit. Jim Doyle sucessfully argued on behalf of MD Cremation in the Circuit Court for Anne Arundel County. Opponents of the business had raised numerous objections to the issuance of permits for the business, and took their objections to court. The court rejected all of their arguments, and ruled in favor of the business. As argued by Doyle, and found by the court: the opponents lacked standing to challenge the permits; there was no violation of the State’s Open Meetings Act in issuing the permits; the opponents failed to file timely appeals of zoning issues; and even if the appeal was timely, the zoning approval was supported by substantial evidence. And just days after the court victory, the MD Department of the Environment gave notice of its approval of a draft air permit for the business. All in all, a needed and significant victory for MD Cremation, and for business in Maryland when it is willing to fight for its rights. MD Cremation has taken major steps this week toward opening its business, and offering its services to the public.
On July 17, Jim Doyle filed a Complaint under MD’s Open Meetings Act with the Office of the Attorney General. The Complaint was filed on behalf of a client, the MD State Funeral Directors Association, against the state regulatory agency, the State Board of Morticians and Funeral Directors. It alleges that the state board conducts closed, secret meetings with respect to claims filed by theft victims under the Family Security Trust Fund, which is administered by the state board. Since these meetings concern the expenditure of public funds in the trust account, they should be open to the public, rather than being conduccted in closed, secret sessions. The Complaint seeeks to open the meeetings, and seeks a ruling to that effect from the compliance board. An investigation into the allegations of the Complaint will be conducted, and the compliance board in the Attorney General’s Office will issue a ruling at a later date. But the Association believes that state activities, particularly involving public expenditures, should be open to the public.
Jim Doyle has obtained a very favorable appellate decision and sucessfully represented sand and gravel mining operations against restrictive zoning laws in Queen Anne’s County. These business interests are recognized as economically important to the State. Today’s reported decision by the Court of Special Appeals in Eaststar v. Queen Anne’s County reconizes that fact, and holds that restrictive county laws were pre-empted by the state’s comprehensive surface mining statutes. This is an important pre-emption decision. Had the Court held otherwise, each county would have been free to enact its own set of surface mining laws, thereby wiping out for practical purposes the extensive state statute, and handcuffing an important business sector of our economy.
After 5 nights of hearings before the Anne Arundel County Board of Appeals, Jim Doyle obtained a victory for Maryland Cremation Services, and for business generally in Anne Arundel County. The Board unanimously granted necessary permits to the business, allowing it to move ahead in the process of establishing a funeral home and crematory in the Millersville area of the county. Although located in a commercial park designed and zoned for such businesses, some residents of the area and a homeowners association fought to prevent the business from obtaining county permits. Claims that the proposed business violated zoning laws were completely and totally rejected by the Board in a detailed, 21 page opinion. As a result, this business will be able to provide a valuable and necessary service in the county, and to provide employment as well. In this case a legitimate business sucessfully fought against claims designed to prevent it from opening its establishment. Businesses must be willing to assert their rights and fight, when necessary, for the right to operate. This case shows that those efforts will prevail.