ANNAPOLIS – The Maryland Court of Special Appeals Tuesday threw a roadblock in front of hopes that Queen’s Chapel Road would reopen to thru traffic in the Prince George’s County community of University Park.
The court decided that residents who were angry about closing the road did not demonstrate any special hardships that would give them the right to petition the courts.
“It’s a terrible disappointment. In the Old West, if you sole someone’s property or cattle you got hung,” said John Hammette, president of Good Neighbors of Prince George’s County, the group that brought the suit.
The organization asked the court to nullify two laws that blocked access to Queen’s Chapel Road at U.S. Route 1 and the East-West Highway, which border the neighborhood.
Good Neighbors argued in their suit that closing the road deprived them of their rights, as members of the public, to use it on their way to work, shopping, church and school.
They also argued that traffic had been diverted to nearby residential streets ill-equipped to handle so many cars.
The court, in rejecting their appeal, found the residents who brought the suit — Hammette, Louis Harlan and Nelson Minnich — suffered no “special damage” that set them apart from others living in the neighborhood.
The court also “flatly refused” to recognize a right to be free of traffic or congestion.
“It must be borne in mind … that living in a city entails the endurance of certain inconveniences and discomforts, and those who have established their residences there cannot expect to have the quiet and peace of the countryside,” the court said.
Suellen Ferguson, a lawyer for the town of University Park, said the decision was a welcome landmark in a controversy that has divided neighbors.
The town of University Park closed the three-quarter mile stretch of Queen’s Chapel Road in 1993 after a referendum in which residents opted for the move.
“For the time, it means that the status quo is maintained. The laws were put into effect after a townwide referendum, and it was a resounding vote,” Ferguson said.
She also discounted the suit’s arguments that residents were deprived of their right to use the road, since they can still drive on it.
“There is no right to thru traffic,” she said.
But Good Neighbors of Prince George’s County said they would not give up on their quest to reopen the street. They now plan to work with residents from nearby communities who have filed their own lawsuit, arguing that they were not notified of public hearings. “They’ve closed the road, and they’ve caused a safety hazard for everyone,” Hammette said. “That’s it. We’re still livid about it.” -30-