Purpose of this note --
To inform the citizenry. (not to garner sympathy or solicit advice)
To expose the ambivalent workings of our laws and our legislators/ judiciary failure of objective followthrough.
To foster official accountabiity.
Synopsis of Persistent Illegal HoCo-FBCG Problems (1998-Present)
Those who have followed this ongoing saga since 1998 realize the gravity of the HoCo-FBCG noncompliance. Serious impacts on property owners rights to protect their interests and that of their neighbors to avert possible state and county zoning "takings" of their own land (by legislation) with impunity, when they least expect it.
From 1998-2003, FBCG had their conditional use, later, their special exception and variance applications, denied at least four (4) separate times by Board of Appeals, Hearing Examiner, Three (3) Ho.Co. Circuit Court Judges overturned on administrative appeal/judicial review. HoCo zoning laws state that after denial, an applicant cannot by law file another application for 24 months from the denial or until after six (6) months, if their application "is not the same or substantially the same" as the denied application.
However, FBCG kept filing applications and HoCo allowed them to do so even though they knew there were administrative reviews pending in the HoCo Circuit Court. On the last overturn by the Hearing Examiner and the circuit court in late 2003, FBCG filed yet another appeal with the Hearing Examiner who then turned the case over again to the Board of Appeals who accepted the FBCG case one more time for de novo hearing. Problem -- It was "the same or substantially the same application" and not even 30 days had passed let alone six months or 24 months after denial.
Moreover, during December 2003, with the ongoing HoCo County Council 10-year Comprehensive Plan session, FBCG approached the Council ex parte during their own pending scheduled Board of Appeals hearing (scheduled for February 2004) and FBCG asked the Council to rezone (spot zone) the church property.
Early 2004, FBCG asked the Board of Appeals to postpone their February 2004, appeal hearing and the Board rescheduled it for March 2004. Then, later in February, FBCG sent an email to "withdraw" their scheduled, pending Board of Appeals de novo hearing. BUT the HoCo Council allowed FBCG to proceed with their same previously denied application and newly approved rezoned property to move with those documents towards the site development plan (SDP) and building permit stages. Needless to say, I protested loud and long with each of those HoCo-FBCG illegitimate moves, including the church commencing construction without any approved SDP or building permit or proper decision and order from the Board. And, I filed an administrative appeal petition in the HoCo Circuit Court for judicial review and then I filed an appeal to COSA following the HoCo Circuit Court denial of my preliminary motions for (1) stay and (2) change of venue (in 2004).
The COSA dismissed my appeal as premature and then remanded my case to the Circuit Court but the COSA did not dismiss my administrative appeal in its entirety, because HoCo had never scheduled a hearing/trial on the merits, which I am continuing to pursue. The COSA ruled that dismissal as premature an appellate review of those motion denials would not put the entire case out of court.
I believe this subject is a serious matter and it needs to be taken as such, because Howard County homeowners are suffering their property rights loss, in many cases not because they have failed to prove their cases; but, because in too many cases, our courts use minor technical "twists" of the law to throw their case(s) out of court. Appeals are a timely and expensive process. And I believe the only way to keep the zoning process honest and for justice to prevail is for sunlight to be poured over, under, through, and around the entire process from start to finish. Our newspapers will not tell these stories leaving individual onlookers to believe they are going through these injustices alone and on their own.
So, you see, it is not merely a matter of how much money you can raise to pursue your case or how many people you can get to sign a petition on behalf of your cause. Justice demands that honest and just officials be seated over those laws which are passed to ensure legal objectivity and mandatory compliance as opposed to somebody's arbitrary, capricious, and illegal abuse of process.
(Alas, it was a beautiful place to dwell. May it once again be so).