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Quinn v. Board of County Commissioners for Queen Anne's County

United States Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit

July 7, 2017

KEVIN QUINN; QUEEN ANNE'S RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION, Plaintiffs - Appellants,
v.
THE BOARD OF COUNTY COMMISSIONERS FOR QUEEN ANNE'S COUNTY, MARYLAND; QUEEN ANNE'S COUNTY SANITARY COMMISSION; PH.D ROBERT M. SUMMERS; MARYLAND DEPARTMENT OF THE ENVIRONMENT, Defendants - Appellees.

          Argued: May 9, 2017

         Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Maryland, at Baltimore. George L. Russell, III, District Judge. (1:14-cv-03529-GLR)

         ARGUED:

          David G. Sommer, GALLAGHER EVELIUS & JONES LLP, Baltimore, Maryland, for Appellants.

          Kurt James Fischer, VENABLE LLP, Baltimore, Maryland; Nancy W. Young, OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL OF MARYLAND, Baltimore, Maryland for Appellees.

          ON BRIEF:

          Anatoly Smolkin, GALLAGHER EVELIUS & JONES LLP, Baltimore, Maryland, for Appellants.

          Amor Neill Thupari, VENABLE LLP, Baltimore, Maryland, for Appellees Board of County Commissioners for Queen Anne's County, Maryland and Queen Anne's County Sanitary Commission. Brian E. Frosh, Attorney General, OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL OF MARYLAND, Baltimore, Maryland, for Appellees Maryland Department of the Environment and Robert M. Summers, Ph.D.

          Before WILKINSON, TRAXLER, and AGEE, Circuit Judges.

         Affirmed by published opinion. Judge Wilkinson wrote the opinion, in which Judge Traxler and Judge Agee joined.

          WILKINSON, Circuit Judge:

         Kevin Quinn, a landowner, challenges a comprehensive plan to extend sewer service to South Kent Island and a so-called Grandfather/Merger Provision designed to limit overdevelopment of the area. He asks us to protect a speculative land investment by finding a regulatory taking as well as violations of his due process and equal protection rights. Doing so, however, would invalidate a standard zoning tool whose legitimacy was recently upheld by the Supreme Court. It would also revolutionize zoning law and "frustrate municipalities' ability" to undertake basic land use planning. Murr v. Wisconsin, No. 15-214, slip op. at 16 (U.S. June 23, 2017). We thus affirm the district court's dismissal of Quinn's claims.

         I.

         Quinn and his company Queen Anne's Research own undeveloped land on South Kent Island, a community in Queen Anne's County, Maryland. Beginning in the 1950s, land speculators purchased thousands of small lots on the island. Between 1984 and 2002, Quinn bought over 200 of these undeveloped lots on South Kent Island. Quinn built homes on some of the lots and hoped to develop the rest.

         His development plans were delayed because his lots could not accommodate septic systems. South Kent Island had no sewer service, so every home required the construction of a septic system. Unfortunately, the soil on the island was not well-suited to septic systems, especially those built on small lots. Shortly after Quinn began buying land, the requirements for a septic system were tightened, forcing him, as he described in an affidavit, "to wait on his development plans until sewer was available on South Kent Island." J.A. 280.

         County requirements also limited the construction of new septic systems, and thus the development of the small lots. The existing septic systems on South Kent Island, however, deteriorated. Many of the septic systems are now considered failing-in two developments, a full eighty percent are. As the district court noted, "[f]ailed septic systems discharge untreated or undertreated sewage onto the surface or into groundwater polluting the ground and surface waters and increasing the risk of disease caused by human ...


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