Thursday, March 15, 2007

Cinque v. Montgomery County Planning Board (Ct. of Special Appeals)

Filed March 15, 2007. Opinion by Judge James Kenney.

This case concerns the ability of an administrative agency to reconsider a quasi-judicial decision.

The Montgomery County Planning Board of the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (the "MCPB"), first approved a preliminary plan for a subdivision in Montgomery County's Agricultural Reserve, then reconsidered its decision and denied the proposed plan, and then reconsidered its denial and ultimately approved the application. Appellants, individual property owners and various organizations, argued that the MCPB violated its own Rules of Procedure and the McKinney test in granting the second reconsideration and approving the proposed subdivision.

An administrative agency may grant reconsideration pursuant to a statute or regulation. In the absence of such express authority, an agency has the inherent power to reconsider its decision in the event of fraud, surprise, mistake or inadvertence. Miles v. McKinney, 174 Md. 551, 199 A.2d 502 (1938). In this case, MCPB regulations provided that the agency may reconsider upon "a clear showing that the [agency] did not conform to relevant law or its rules of procedure." Accordingly, when the MCPB accepted the argument of the property owner that the denial of the application was not in accordance with the development standards of the applicable zone, it had a valid ground to grant reconsideration. Neither the fact that the membership of the MCPB had changed nor the fact that one member had reversed his own views made the reconsideration decision an impermissible change of mind.

The opinion is available in PDF.

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