Hospital withdraws lawsuits against La Plata
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.