Court of Appeals dismisses suit over KI sewer access
BALTIMORE — The U.S. Cour t of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit has affirmed the 2015 U.S. District Court’s dismissal of the lawsuit filed by Kevin Quinn and his company, Queen Anne’s Research and Development Corp., over denial of access to sewer on southern Kent Island.
In the July 7 opinion, Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson III, wrote, “Kevin Quinn, a landowner, challenges a comprehensive plan to extend sewer service to South Kent Island and a so-called Grandfather/Merger Provision designed to limit overdevelopment of the area. He asks us to protect a speculative land investment by finding a regulatory taking as well as violations of his due process and equal protection rights. Doing so, however, would invalidate a standard zoning tool whose legitimacy was recently upheld by the Supreme Court. It would also revolutionize zoning law and ‘frustrate municipalities’ ability’ to undertake basic land use planning.”
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 14-07, passed as part of the southern Kent Island sewer project. The original lawsuit was filed Nov. 10, 2014.
The county welcomed news of the latest ruling as work continued on phase one of the Southern Kent Island Sanitar y Project.
“County Ordinance 1324 was enacted not to take property rights from individual property owners in the nine Southern Kent Island Sanitary Project communities but rather to ensure that a manageable buildout of vacant lots (1,600 reduced to a maximum of 634) occurred without negatively impacting the communities or put undue stress on county services,” said Commissioner James Moran in a statement. “Having the federal Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals uphold this ensures that the entire project is feasible and can be completed.”
Contractors are currently installing tanks at residences in Kent Island Estates, and the main sewer transmission line was laid in front of the Matapeake school complex last week, according to the Department of Public Works.
“We are grateful to the Fourth Circuit’s positive ruling on this case and we want to thank Kurt Fischer, our lawyer who guided us on the crafting of County Ordinance 13-24 to ensure that it would withhold legal challenges,” said County Administrator Gregg Todd.
However, Quinn isn’t giving up. The July 7 affirmation of the lower court came after the case was argued before a three-judge panel. Quinn plans to ask the full panel of judges to hear the case and said he will file the request Friday, July 21.
“The county is not being fair … not only with us, but with other property owners,” Quinn said. “It’s just not fair for county government, for any government, to select certain classes of people (to target). … We think the county is wrong — they’re definitely discriminating.”
Quinn maintains the county hasn’t followed the proper steps in taking his property rights.
“The fact you do not want growth is not a legitimate reason,” he said.
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 expan-
The communities that will be served by the proposed sewer system are highlighted for the lower portion of Kent Island.
Contractors continue work on phase one of the Southern Kent Island Sanitary Project.