The Oregon Grille will keep the majority of its paved parking lot after a Baltimore County judge declined to order the asphalt be replaced with a permeable surface, potentially ending a six-year legal battle.
The Falls Road Community Association filed suit in 2010 claiming the restaurant’s paved lot at a corner of Oregon Ridge Park violates county zoning laws and a restrictive covenant agreed to by the restaurant in 1995.
The dispute over the restaurant’s 143-space paved lot has already been in appellate courts twice.
“It’s always helpful when a case comes to an end in protracted litigation and I hope what appears to be finality now is not a mirage,” said Paul Mark Sandler of Shapiro, Sher, Guinot & Sandler in Baltimore, an attorney for Oregon LLC, the restaurant’s operator.
Baltimore County Circuit Judge Susan Souder found in 2010 that the paving violates the restrictive covenant but declined a request for declaratory judgment because “such an action would not terminate the controversy at issue in the proceedings.” The Court of Appeals reversed in 2014, finding the dispute could be settled in court as opposed to administratively.
Souder, on remand, issued an injunction ordering the county to remove the paved parking lot, which the restaurant appealed because the order did not explain the parties’ responsibilities. That order was vacated by the Court of Special Appeals in February because it provided inadequate detail on who would bear the cost of the removal and ultimate condition of the parking lot.
Souder heard arguments earlier this month and ruled the community association had failed to meet its burden to show injunctive relief was appropriate. Her written order, dated Sept. 8, only requires the restaurant to tear up a portion of the parking lot that was over the lease line, leaving the rest of the area untouched.
The asphalt is to be removed by March 1 and the area is to be restored to grass by May 1, according to Souder’s order.
Assistant County Attorney James J. Nolan said Baltimore County has no obligations under the order.
“The county is done, although I don’t know if [the plaintiffs] are going to take an appeal or not,” he said.
Michael R. McCann, a Towson solo practitioner representing the community association, did not return a call seeking comment.
The restaurant took over the Oregon General Store in the 1990s and residents negotiated the restrictive covenant that required the parking area remain unpaved. In the ensuing years, the restaurant sought permission to expand its operations outside the building but was challenged by the residents and rejected by the county’s Board of Appeals.
The parking lot dispute arose in 2006 when the lot was paved following a finding by the county’s Commission on Disabilities that it was noncompliant with the federal Americans with Disabilities Act.
The association in 2007 challenged the paved lot as a violation of county zoning law and the 1995 restrictive covenant. The association urged several county agencies to order the pavement removed the following summer, the Baltimore County Office of Law told the association that the county would not act on the requests.
In announcing her ruling Sept. 2, Souder said she saw no evidence in any proceedings that the plaintiffs’ objective was “anything other than to protect the environment and the historic nature of the area where they reside.”
Souder called the plaintiffs’ goals “desirable” and their work to ensure proper enforcement of county rules and regulations “vigilant.”
The case is Falls Road Community Ass’n et al. v. Baltimore County, Maryland et al., 03C08008443.
Daily Record Legal Editor Danny Jacobs contributed to this report.