Maryland Court of Special Appeals, #279 & 667, Sept. 15, 2010: Rejects appeal of the City historical commission’s demolition-delay designation of the Pennsylvania Railroad Building, affirming that hearing notice and process were adequate and finding the designation decision as consistent with the enabling act and master plan. Also affirms that judicial review is available generally from commission’s designation decisions.
Baltimore’s Commission for Historical and Architectural Preservation (CHAP) placed the railroad station on the “Special List” of structures having historical or architectural significance, thereby affording it demolition delay protection. This outcome followed a CHAP hearing at which the owner’s representatives presented procedural objections and gave other testimony. The building’s owner appealed. The lower (circuit) court rejected CHAP’s contention that this decision was not subject to judicial review, but affirmed CHAP’s designation decision and dismissed the owner’s complaint for declaratory judgment.
On appeal, the owner sought to overturn the circuit court’s holdings for CHAP, asserted that CHAP’s process ran afoul of the US Supreme Court’s Penn Central, 438 U.S. at 104 (1978), decision on several grounds. The Maryland Court of Special Appeals upheld the circuit court’s decision. It found the hearing notice process was adequate, the designation was consistent with the enabling statute and the urban rehabilitation plan, and the substantive evidence available to CHAP was sufficient for the designation to be reasonable. As to the owner’s contention that the designation created an “indefinite burden” (supposedly allowing endlessly repeated postponements of demolition), the appeals court first noted that this objection was not asserted at the CHAP hearing, which ordinarily would mean it cannot be raised on appeal. The court however placed this contention in the context of the adequacy of the hearing notice — “appellant observes that the asserted defects are a reason why there was a need for a meaningful hearing … As we have already stated, we conclude that appellant was not unlawfully denied a meaningful opportunity to be heard” — and thereby rejected it.
The decision is available at http://mdcourts.gov/opinions/cosa/2010/279s09.pdf.