County Argues Against Young/Delauter/Shreve DRRAs in Blentlinger Appeal

With all of the terrible news of the last few days, I wanted to share something positive. When the Court of Special Appeals (COSA) over-turned the Blentlinger Development Rights and Responsibilities Agreement (DRRA), it was a huge and long-awaited victory for the citizens of Frederick County that argued against the Young/Delauter/Shreve BoCC’s wasteful and abusive development policies.

The basis for COSA’s ruling was that the Blentlinger DRRA didn’t convey any “enhanced benefits” to the County (i.e., you and me) in exchange for the 25-year DRRA. In a familiar theme with all of the Young/Delauter/Shreve BoCC development decisions, all the benefits acrued to the developer – none to County.

When the Court of Appeals agreed to hear the Blentlinger’s appeal of this COSA decision, we were justifiably concerned. As it turns out, the county was concerned, as well. I can’t blame them. This new appeal could undermine a key requirement of a DRRA – that the developer must provide benefits to the county above & beyond what it would require from the zoning process and the Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance (APFO), all in exchange for the long-term certainty of the DRRA. This appeal threatens that requirement.

What I didn’t expect and what I’m immensely pleased to see, is just how far the county has gone in making a strong public statement, disavowing the old BoCC’s policies under these agreements. The legal brief linked below is the County’s response to the Blentlinger argument to the Court of Appeals. I’ve extracted a piece of the briefing (beginning on page 15, emphasis included) which I thought really cuts to the heart of the County argument. I’ve highlighted some key points, but I could just as easily highlighted the entire paragraph – it’s that good:

“The DRRA under review in this case does not provide the County with any benefit that the developer was not already required to supply under the PUD Ordinance, Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance, or any other source of law. Further, the DRRA exceeds the County’s authority under § 7-304 and purports to bargain away for 25 years the County’s ability to enact a wide array of laws including impact fees, excise taxes, environmental protection and affordable housing laws. The prior BOCC approved 14 other DRRAs, which are similar in scope. The effect of these DRRAs is to exempt a large part of the County from future laws and policies in a wide range of areas. For example, the County has recently received an extensive housing study containing multiple recommendations as to how to better plan for and address affordable housing shortages by requiring additional moderately priced housing units or by obtaining additional fees in lieu. Further, all regional roads in the area of the Blentlingers’ property fail, and many are State roads. The fact that such a large portion of the County is supposedly exempt from a wide range of new laws makes it difficult and less effective to legislate and regulate the remainder of the County. It is particularly troubling that the action at issue in this case took place in a last minute, lame duck session after voters had elected a new government promising a different policy. For this reason, the County has changed its position in this case from that which it argued before the Circuit Court and Court of Special Appeals.

It’s really nice to know that we’re not alone anymore in fighting against these bad development decisions!

You can find the full brief in the Updates section of the RALE website here.

Court of Special Appeals Overturns Blentlinger DRRA!
February 3, 2017
by Steven McKay

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