• Localities Must Follow the Plain Meaning of Their Own Ordinances, Even if it Leads to Absurd Results
  • December 21, 2010
  • Law Firm: Semmes Bowen Semmes A Professional Corporation - Baltimore Office
  • Anselmo v. Mayor of Rockville, No. 1006 (Md. Ct. Spec. App. November 1, 2010)

    In Anselmo v. Mayor of Rockville, the Court of Special Appeals addressed the requirements imposed upon the City of Rockville when approving residential developments. Rockville, Md., Adequate Public Facilities Standards (November 1, 2005) ("APSF") requires the City of Rockville to assess both the local schools' capacity and demand before issuing permits for residential development. However, in this case, Rockville only assessed the capacity of the Montgomery County School System and did not address the future demand on those schools. Therefore, the Court of Special Appeals held that the permit was invalid.

    On October 20, 2006, MHP Town Center, Inc. ("MHP") filed a "use" permit application with the City of Rockville to construct a new housing development at the corner of North Washington Street and Beall Avenue. In determining the merits of the application, the City of Rockville assessed the program capacity for Richard Montgomery High School, Julius West Middle School and Beall Elementary School, the affected public schools.

    When assessing the schools' cumulative capacity, Rockville used the formula provided by Montgomery County Public Schools, which determined the schools' future capacity as 110 percent of the current school capacity. Under this formula, the affected school cluster had 18 fewer students than the total capacity. Rockville estimated that the new development would add a maximum of eight (8) students; and therefore, approved the permit.

    However, Rockville did not consider the change in demand on these schools. The AFPS requires Rockville to adjust the current schools' censuses for demographic changes, changes in district boundaries, and other changes anticipated by the city planners. Instead, Rockville only relied on the schools' current censuses.

    The Maryland Court of Special Appeals found that Rockville did not comply with the plain meaning of the AFPS, which required an assessment of capacity and demand. Rockville argued that considering the change of the schools' demand in the permit stage would lead to absurd results. Rockville argued that the permit stage is so far removed from the completed stage of the development, that it would be absurd to calculate the future demand on schools and reserve spots for students in a complex that has not even broken ground on construction. The Court of Special Appeals agreed that it might be impractical and a waste of time and resources to reserve spaces for children in such an early stage of the development, but the plain meaning of the AFPS requires Rockville to make that exact determination. Therefore, the Court of Special Appeals held that Rockville must comply with the express terms of its own ordinances.