The Prince George's County Circuit Court judge who ruled last month that the County Council erred in granting limited zoning for the proposed Konterra minicity said yesterday the council must decide among several courses of action, including whether it will hold new hearings or appeal his decision.
Council members are scheduled to be briefed Monday on what action they can take on Judge James Magruder Rea's original eight-page decision, but several interviewed yesterday said they do not want to get involved in an expensive and drawn-out appeal.
"I'm not sure there's merit in appeal," said member Richard Castaldi. "Nor do we want to waste money on appealing."
Rea, meeting with county lawyers in a 15-minute hearing, said that any zoning decision is, in effect, a contract entered into between the county and the developer. He ruled that the court cannot rezone the 1,458-acre parcel near Laurel because it is prohibited from entering into such contracts. But the council, Rea said, can and should.
"This is still in the negotiation stage before the council as far as the court is concerned," Rea said. "It is clear to the court that such a contract for zoning should have been granted, subject to what conditions the County Council wanted to put on it."
A year ago, the council voted unanimously to rezone for mixed uses a 488-acre section and a 35-acre parcel of gravel-mining property owned by developer Kingdon Gould. At the same time, the council turned down the same zoning for 969.9 adjoining acres.
Rea's Oct. 28 decision, a rare instance of a court overturning a legislative decision, surprised many council members.
Yesterday, Associate County Attorney Stephen Gilbert said the council can reopen hearings, make a new decision based on the existing record, rezone the property with added conditions or appeal Rea's decision to a higher court. "If we're going to appeal, we will do it Tuesday or Wednesday," he said.
Council member Floyd Wilson recommended that the council grant the requested rezoning with certain conditions, including provisions for facilities such as roads and schools. Those amenities, he said, are certain to be in place by the time Konterra is completed. "You're talking about a project that will take 30 years to build," he said.
But council member Frank Casula, who represents the Laurel area, said the council should stick by its original decision to send the matter of the 969.9 acres back for further planning study and should, if necessary, appeal Rea's ruling.
For the council just to change its mind now, Casula said, would be like "zoning without a public hearing."
Council member Anthony Cicoria agreed with Casula, saying that a new hearing is needed to protect the interests of the Laurel area residents who have opposed the project.
Council Chairman William Amonett maintained, however, that the council made a proper decision in limiting the development of Gould's parcel. He added that the council may have to "articulate more clearly" its opposition to granting the full rezoning.