Property owner appeals dismissal of sewer case
BALTIMORE — Kevin Quinn and his company, Queen Anne’s Research and Development Corp., have filed an appeal of a U.S. District Court judge’s 2015 dismissal of a civil case in which he sued Queen Anne’s County and the Maryland Department of the Environment because his property was excluded from the South Kent Island sewer project service area.
Quinn sued the Queen Anne’s County Commissioners, the Queen Anne’s County Sanitary Commission, Secretary of the Environment Robert M. Summers and the Maryland Department of the Environment in federal court over County Ordinance 13-14 and Resolution 1407, passed as part of the southern Kent Island sewer project. The original lawsuit was filed Nov. 10, 2014.
Quinn has lived and owned property on southern Kent Island for more than 30 years. He wants sewer service, but the plans created by the county and state to limit access interfere with his constitutional rights, Quinn said.
Under Ordinance 13-24, owners of adjoining lots zoned NC-20 (neighborhood conservation) are required to merge substandard lots, identified as lots consisting of less than 20,000 square feet. The nine communities targeted for sewer expansion, Matapeake Estates, Normans, Sunny Isle of Kent, Chesapeake Estates, Kentmorr, Queen Anne Colony, Kent Island Estates, Tower Gardens and Romancoke on the Bay, are all zoned NC20.
Quinn owns property in Tower Gardens and Kentmorr. Queen Anne’s Research and Development Corp. owns more than 200 lots in the area of Kentmorr and Queen Anne’s Colony.
Resolution 14-07 established the South Kent Island Wastewater Subdistrict, defining its boundaries and financing a public sewage collection and transmission system for it.
Quinn said the laws unconstitutionally targeted him and his property and eliminated the property’s economic viability.
He also alleged MDE acted in violation of his due process under the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution by approving the 2011 Queen Anne’s County Comprehensive Water and Sewer Plan, which excluded Quinn’s parcels.
“This lawsuit is about fairness,” Quinn said in a 2015 interview. “Fairness is the cornerstone of our society. Is it fair to put a sewer line in front of and around platted, recorded lots and not include them in the service area when other vacant lots are being served?”
On Aug. 13, 2015, Judge George L. Russell III granted motions to dismiss filed by the county, MDE and Summers. Russell found Quinn failed to show his investment was backed by any legitimate expectation that his parcels would be provided with public sewer ser vice.
“While the challenged action does cause some economic harm associated with the loss of individual unrestricted rights of access to the private beachfront and certain Transferrable Development Rights of each individual lot, the Court finds that the lots are not stripped of all beneficial use because they are simply developable as larger residential lots,” Russell wrote in his opinion.
The judge agreed with the county’s argument that Quinn, while he might be the largest property owner affected, was not treated differently because other owners of undeveloped lots are subject to the same provisions and also have been excluded from the service area.
In his opinion, Russell noted the specifics of the laws passed relating to the Southern Kent Island sewer project as “promotion of the general welfare.”
Quinn filed the appeal with the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit on July 6; it was served and filed electronically on Aug. 3.
The communities that will be served by the proposed sewer system are highlighted for the lower portion of Kent Island.