October 18, 2006 Baltimore Examiner Article – Howard Residents Sue Over Comp Lite

Howard residents sue over Comp Lite

Howard County – Fourteen Howard County residents filed a lawsuit, saying county officials neglected to get public comment before rezoning several properties in the controversial Comp Lite legislation.

“The bill in and of itself was invalid — for several reasons,” said prosecutor Katherine Taylor. But “mainly it was created after the fact.”

Council members gave themselves the authority to reconsider properties they had not rezoned during the comprehensive zoning process in 2004, which guides future growth, according to the lawsuit filed Monday in Howard County Circuit Court.

The Comp Lite law is illegal because the Howard County government did not provide enough public hearings to gather residents’ feedback on the zoning changes, Taylor said.

Four rezoned properties are disputed in the lawsuit: Bethel Korean Presbyterian Church in Ellicott City, the Cavey/Braun property in Ellicott City, the Kaulfuss property in Ellicott City and a property on Marriottsville Road in Marriottsville.

“If Comp Lite is allowed to go forward, [plaintiffs] will suffer from increased noise and traffic and decreased property values,” the lawsuit states.

Council Member Christopher Merdon, R-District 1, who was the only council member to oppose the bill, said, “I think there are some very valid legal issues that should be pursued in court.”

After Comp Lite was enacted, a group of residents took the legislation to referendum.

But developers appealed the decision in Howard County Circuit Court on a technicality referring to the wording of the law’s title.

The court disagreed, but the Court of Special Appeals overturned the Circuit Court decision, rendering the referendum moot.

mmcilroy@baltimoreexaminer.com