Appeals from the United States District Court for the District of Maryland, at Baltimore.
Frederic N. Smalkin, District Judge. (CA-95-595-S)
Before WILKINS, NIEMEYER, and HAMILTON, Circuit Judges.
Affirmed by published opinion. Judge Niemeyer wrote the opinion, in which Judge Wilkins and Judge Hamilton joined.
Bryant Woods Inn, Inc., a group home for handicapped persons, seeks to expand from 8 residents to 15 residents. When Howard County, Maryland, refused to waive its neutral zoning regulation to allow this expansion, Bryant Woods Inn sued the county, contending that it had violated the Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C.Section(s) 3601 et seq., by refusing to make a reasonable accommodation. Because Bryant Woods Inn has not shown that its proposed expansion relates to the accommodation of disabled residents in seeking equality of housing opportunities, we affirm the district court's summary judgment entered in favor of the county.
Richard Colandrea, the owner and resident of an 11-bedroom house in Columbia, Maryland, rents portions of his house to 8 elderly persons who suffer from Alzheimers disease and other forms of dementia and disability. Colandrea, together with his mother, operates the licensed group home through a for-profit corporation, Bryant Woods Inn, Inc. The applicable zoning regulations issued by Howard County, where the house is located, permit this use of Colandrea's house as a matter of right. See Howard County, Md., Zoning Regulations Section(s) 110.C.4.b.
Seeking to expand his group home from 8 to 15 disabled or elderly residents, Colandrea filed an application with the appropriate Maryland state licensing agencies. The agencies denied Colandrea's request, however, until Colandrea had obtained zoning approval for the expansion from Howard County.
Colandrea filed an application with Howard County for a zoning variance, locally called an amendment to the neighborhood's Final Development Plan, to use his house as a "group care facility" limited to 15 disabled residents who will benefit from "the opportunity to live in a smaller, supervised home that provides some daily care in a structured social environment." The proposed expansion would include two daytime employees and one employee at other times. Colandrea proposed to provide existing off-street parking for five to six vehicles for use by employees and occasional visitors. The application indicates that the residents themselves generally do not drive and therefore the facility would not need to provide parking for eight vehicles as required by the applicable zoning regulations, Howard County, Md., Zoning Regulations Section(s) 133.D.7.f.
Applicable regulations provide generally for approval of requests "only if [the Planning Board] finds that: (1) the use is consistent with the land use designation of the property . . . and compatible with existing or proposed development in the vicinity,[and] (2) the use will not adversely affect vicinal properties." Howard County, Md., Zoning Regulations Section(s) 125.D.2.c. More specifically, any group care facility for more than 8 persons is deemed a nursing home, see id. Section(s) 103.A.55, and requires one parking space for every 2 beds, or at least 8 spaces for the 15 residents anticipated in Colandrea's application, see id. Section(s) 133.D.7.f. A residential group home with up to eight residents is required to have only four parking spaces. See id. Section(s) 133.D.1.c & 133.D.2.a.
The staff at the Howard County Department of Planning and Zoning recommended denial of Colandrea's application because it lacked the information necessary for a decision and the county received no response to its requests for information. Colandrea did respond, however, after the staff recommended denial. The Howard County Planning Board decided to proceed with a hearing and to receive Colandrea's response at the hearing.
The Howard County Planning Board conducted a full public hearing on Colandrea's application in February 1994 at which persons testified both for and against the zoning change. Speaking for the expansion were persons representing Colandrea, the Howard County Office of Aging, and the county's Alzheimer Association, and speaking against it were neighbors and three neighborhood associations, as well as the Department of Planning and Zoning staff.
The board received information that only 3 of more than 32 licensed group homes in Howard County had more than 8 residents and that the smaller homes seemed to be functioning"reasonably well" so that "there is a viable position for a facility of up to 8 patients." It received letters from residents reporting that the Colandrea family had operated several businesses from their house which "seem[ed] to include a junk hauling business and a rooming house." One neighbor commented at the hearing:
This kind of thing, this institutional use needs to be in a different area. As it is now, I don't think anybody has a problem with it. It's this expansion and the construction and the additional parking that's really going to throw it over. The real reason that I think more than eight is needed .. . is the pure economies of scale. I had heard the number quoted twenty-five hundred dollars a month is what each resident pays. Well if you multiply that by 12 months times 8 residents, you're talking about a quarter of a million dollars of ...