WASHINGTON D.C. – On April 23 the U.S. Supreme Court denied the Petition for Certiorari (review of lower court ruling by a higher court) filed by Southern Kent Island real estate developer Kevin Quinn, et al., against Queen Anne’s County.
Quinn had been seeking damages because his company, Queen Anne’s Research and Development Corp., which owns more than 200 lots in the area of Kentmorr and Queen Anne’s Colony had been excluded from the South Kent Island Sewer Project and because other property he owns within the South Kent Island Sewer area is required to comply with the County’s merger ordinance. Last summer, the Federal Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court’s decision to dismiss the civil case in which a Quinn sued Queen Anne’s County. Last week’s Supreme Court decision is the end of the legal battle.
County Commissioner Mark Anderson said, “A major concern with supplying sewer service to South Kent Island were legitimate fears of increased traffic on MD Route 8. The lot consolidation process was developed to substantially reduce the number of buildable lots and traffic. Each lower court affirmed that process was consistent with the law, so much so, the Supreme Court did not choose to take time to consider the appeal.”
County Ordinance 13-24 on which Quinn’s lawsuit was based, enacted a Grandfather/Merger Provision under which the county would not grant a building permit for a vacant lot smaller than the minimum permitted size under current zoning (20,000 SF) unless the lot was merged with contiguous lots under common ownership to the extent possible to comply with the minimum lot size. Under the grandfather component, however, a developer who owned an isolated, substandard lot would still be able to build a home. Petitioners, Kevin Quinn, et al. (“Quinn”), own twelve lots in the sewer service area established under the County’s program. Quinn purchased the lots beginning in 1984 with the understanding that they could not be developed unless and until the county decided to extend public sewer to Southern Kent Island.
Quinn was required under the Grandfather/Merger Provision to merge the twelve lots into four lots to receive building permits. Quinn brought this action, contending that the requirement that he merge his twelve vacant lots merge into four constituted an uncompensated taking of the vacant lots under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments.
The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court’s entry of summary judgment in favor of the county on this claim and ruled that, in analyzing whether the Grandfather/Merger Provision affected a taking, Quinn’s contiguous, vacant lots under common ownership and subject to the merger should be treated as one property. On this basis of this conclusion, the Fourth Circuit ruled that the required mergers did not affect a taking under the tests established by the court. The Supreme Court’s denial of the Petition for Certiorari, upholds that ruling and ends Quinn’s legal challenges.