ANNAPOLIS – Maryland’s highest court ruled Tuesday that Harford County voters will not decide if development should be banned in the county for a year.
The appellate court upheld the Harford County Circuit Court ruling, which said the plan is so detailed it amounts to a legislative mandate instead of a framework for governing.
“There’s a big difference between what’s legislative material and what’s charter material,” Judge John C. Eldridge said during court arguments. “You elect representatives” to decide legislative matters, he said.
Lawyer J. Carroll Holzer, the attorney for the initiative’s coordinator, argued that the referendum wasn’t a legislative matter because it didn’t dictate what the council should do. It merely would spur it to do something, he said.
But Stephen Winter, the lawyer representing Harford County, said the initiative was “really a detailed legislative scheme.”
The judges, in their line of questioning, seemed to agree. But on Tuesday they did not issue their reasons for their decision. That will come later. Besides halting commercial and residential development, the measure would have amended Harford County’s charter to force the council to raise taxes to pay for the expenses of attorneys and experts representing nonprofit groups in zoning cases. -30-