ANNAPOLIS – The Maryland Court of Special Appeals on Tuesday overturned a lower court ruling that would have required developers of the National Harbor to present more detailed noise studies before proceeding on the Prince George’s County resort.
“This allows us to continue full-speed ahead,” said Andre Gingles, lead counsel for the Peterson Companies Inc., which is developing the planned 537- acre entertainment and retail resort on the Potomac River.
Opponents have argued that the project, with nearly 7 million square feet of hotels, entertainment, dining and conferencing facilities, is out of place on the Potomac and they vowed to continue fighting.
But in a setback to opponents, a three-judge panels of the appeals court said the lead plaintiff could not bring suit because she lived in Calvert County, even though her mother planned to leave her the family home near the National Harbor site.
“I have every right to fight for my parents’ home,” said Karen Egloff, after hearing the decision. “Whether I live there or not, that is my home.”
The Court also ruled that Egloff’s co-applicants on the appeal — the Sierra Club, the Anacostia Watershed Society and two local environmentalists — did not properly file paperwork to be part of the appeal.
“These people lost because they didn’t have the right status or didn’t follow the right procedures,” said Steven Gilbert, principal counsel for the Prince George’s County District Council, which approved the National Harbor plan.
At issue was whether Egloff had “standing,” or the legal right to challenge the district council’s 1998 approval of the conceptual site plan for the project. The site plan broadly defined how the property would be used and what transportation networks would service it.
Egloff appealed the council’s approval of the site plan in circuit court.
“This development is totally for tourists and it will add more congestion to an already-congested area,” Egloff said Tuesday.
Egloff and John O’Loughlin, a Prince George’s County resident and neighbor of the proposed development, filed an appeal with the Prince George’s County Circuit Court. The others soon joined in an attempt to show solidarity with Egloff and O’Loughlin and to share costs, said Thomas Dernoga, attorney for the opponents.
The group was assured of standing since O’Loughlin lived adjacent to the development, said Dernoga.
“At the time that the original petition was filed — and when everyone intervened — there was personal standing,” he said. But two days before the appeal was heard in the circuit court, O’Loughlin pulled out.
But the case continued and Dernoga was able to convince the circuit court in November 1998 that more noise studies were needed, temporarily putting the development on hold. Dernoga said the lower court never considered Egloff’s standing as an issue.
Buoyed by their partial victory in circuit court, the opponents asked the Court of Special Appeals to overturn the approval of the entire site plan, not just the noise studies.
But Gilbert said that someone has standing to appeal a district council decision only if they live in Prince George’s County and are somehow harmed by the decision the public officials have made — and Egloff did not have that standing. The appellate court agreed.
“The Court never considered the validity of the conceptual site plan,” Gilbert said. “The court dismissed these people for procedural reasons.”
But Bonnie Bick, a co-applicant on the appeal with Egloff, is confident that environmentalists will eventually win and get Peterson to sell the property for uses more to their liking. Bick recently helped secure the state’s purchase of the Chapman’s Landing property, down the Potomac River in Charles County.
“They’re all setbacks, but we have our eye on the big picture,” she said. “And it’s going to be a gift to the people of Maryland.”