Hospi­tal with­draws law­suits against La Plata

Maryland Independent - - News - By TIFFANY WAT­SON twat­son@somd­news.com

The Univer­sity of Mary­land Charles Re­gional Med­i­cal Cen­ter was un­able to move for­ward with build­ing ad­di­tional park­ing at its nearby re­cently pur­chased prop­erty, and the hospi­tal de­cided to take le­gal ac­tion against the Town of La Plata.

In 2015, the town re­ceived a zon­ing text amend­ment pro­posal from the med­i­cal cen­ter to amend com­mer­cial park­ing in a res­i­den­tial zone and al­low for a park­ing lot to be built in sev­eral of the lots in prox­im­ity to the hospi­tal.

In March 2016, the amended hospi­tal zon­ing leg­is­la­tion passed unan­i­mously among the La Plata Town Coun­cil mem­bers, which now in­cludes a stronger def­i­ni­tion of a “hospi­tal,” as rec­om­mended by the La Plata Plan­ning Com­mis­sion. How­ever, the ad­di­tional park­ing or­di­nance was voted down in a 3-1 vote by the town coun­cil. Since then, the hospi­tal has con­tin­ued to de­mol­ish its pur­chased prop­erty, in ad­di­tion to pre­vi­ously hav­ing filed two law­suits against the town.

Town Man­ager Daniel Mears said both law­suits filed against the town were dis­missed with­out prej­u­dice, mean­ing the hospi­tal still re­serves the right to re-file one or both of them.

“The first law­suit [filed on Nov. 30, 2015 and dis­missed on July 13, 2016] had to do with the town coun­cil vot­ing down the pro­posed text amend­ment to the zon­ing code that would have al­lowed park­ing on the res­i­den­tially zoned lots,” said Fred­er­ick Suss­man, Town of La Plata at­tor­ney. “They felt the town coun­cil should not have turned that down and were ar­bi­trary in do­ing so. The sec­ond law­suit [filed on June 22, 2016, and dis­missed on July 6, 2016] barely got off the ground, but it was about de­mo­li­tion per­mits per­tain­ing to the town coun­cil not ob­tain­ing the per­mit in a timely fash­ion.”

The hospi­tal’s at­tor­ney, Stephen Scott, con­firmed the law­suits were dis­missed.

“The sec­ond case was filed to re­quest a court order com­pelling the town to is­sue a de­mo­li­tion per­mit for 8 Oak Av­enue, a house ac­quired by the hospi­tal to use the land for a fu­ture park­ing lot ex­pan­sion,” Scott said. “The case was dis­missed be­cause the town is­sued the de­mo­li­tion per­mit.”

Mears said La Plata does not have any laws which would pre­vent an owner from de­mol­ish­ing a home they own. He said as long as the prop­erty owner meets the con­di­tions of a de­mo­li­tion per­mit, they may tear down a struc­ture.

“The law­suits have been dropped and the park­ing is­sue will con­tinue to be dis­cussed,” said Joyce Riggs, the hospi­tal’s pub­lic in­for­ma­tion of­fi­cer. “There are no more prop­er­ties to be de­mol­ished.”

“We are cur­rently work­ing with the town to cre­ate a res­o­lu­tion about the hospi­tal park­ing,” Scott said.

Mears said the town did meet with the hospi­tal in a closed ses­sion two and a half weeks ago.

“The town de­sires to keep the lines of com­mu­ni­ca­tion open with the hospi­tal to pre­serve both the in­ter­ests of the hospi­tal as well as the in­ter­ests of neigh­bor­ing res­i­dents,” Mears said. “Given it was a closed-ses­sion meet­ing, it is not ap­pro­pri­ate to com­ment re­gard­ing the meet­ing.”

Riggs said the meet­ing be­tween the town and the hospi­tal was pri­vate, and was un­able to share the de­tails of the meet­ing.

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