The Marriott Corporation is expected to tell a Circuit Court judge today why the company has a legal right to build a Roy Rogers Restaurant in Riverdale. Marriott's suit is the result of a struggle over who has the final say in granting sewer permits in Prince George's County.
Marriott had been issued the sewer permit by the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission in June - a move which allowed another county agency to grant the corporation a building permit - but then the Prince George's County Council ordered the sewer permit to revoked.
Today's hearing is the result of a surprise move by Marriott attorney Alan Friedman, who filed suit last week about the WSSC and Prince George's County in order to test Marriott's right to proceed with building.
Last week the County Attorney's Office obtained permission from County Executive Winfield Kelly to file its own suit against the WSSC for falsely issuing a plumbing permit to Marriott without County Council approval. The permit would allow the planned Marriott restaurant to hook up with the existing sewer line.
County Attorny James Chapin said that if Marriott had not sued, he would have filed his own suit this week in the case.
Chapin said he was "surprised" at Friedman's decision because he and other county officials had assumed the county would take the first legal steps toward bringing the subject to court.
Friedman said that Marriott "couldn't wait for the county to make its move. I used to work in the County Attorney's office myself, and I know how slow they can be."
The case of "I'll sue you before you sue me" was the end result of weeks of haggling between County Council officials, the WSSC and Marriott over the legality of the permit the WSSC issued to Marriott for the restaurant. The council, acting on the assumption that it is the final arbiter of who gets plumbing permits in certain areas of the county, told the WSSC to revoke the permit it had issued. The WSSC responded that a permit revocation would be "inappropriate."
Should the court overturn the WSSC's decision to grant the sewer permit, it would also challenge the validity of Marriott's building permit.
Sewer and building permits are required of all builders in the county and their issuance is doubly convoluted when construction involves fast food restaurants. The County Council has passed several pieces of legislation in recent months to limit the number of fast food restaurants in certain parts of the county, including one that gave the council the right to refuse a sewer hook-up for such a restaurant.
Marriott Corp. plans to spend $525,000 on land and construction at Kenilworth Avenue and East-West Highway for the Roy Rogers restaurant, Friedman said, "but it would be imprudent to proceed without a judgment from the courts on the issue.We have to use the building permit before Dec. 27 or we will lost it. We needed a speedy hearing, and we decided we had to do it (file the suit) ourselves.
"The county could stretch this thing out until we couldn't do a thing out there with the land," Friedman said.