2021 | Courts

Court of Special Appeals allows seven additional structures on Silver Spring lot

Property owners followed county’s ‘50%’ zoning rule

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The state’s Court of Special Appeals ruled that two property owners in Silver Spring are allowed to keep seven accessory structures on their lot, along with their home.

According to the decision, Larry and Sharon Crews own a roughly 29,700-square-foot lot with a 1,176-square-foot detached home. The property also has seven additional non-residential structures:

  • An 840-square-foot trailer-like building 
  • Two sheds, which are 130 square feet and 100 square feet
  • Two canopy sheds, which are 200 square feet each
  • Another two canopy sheds, 200 square feet each. 

The Crewses built the last two canopy sheds after applying to the county’s Department of Permitting Services, but they were denied the corresponding permits.

They appealed to the county’s Board of Appeals, and were denied. Then, they applied to the county’s Circuit Court, which reversed the decision and ordered that the permits should be issued.

The Board of Appeals appealed to the state’s Court of Special Appeals, the state’s second-highest court. Because the Crewses had followed the county’s “50% Rule” regarding accessory units, that court agreed with the county’s Circuit Court.

The county’s “50% Rule” states that accessory units must not be greater than 50% of the size of a detached house or 600 square feet, whichever is greater.

Before, the county’s Board of Appeals had argued that that total applies to the combined total of all accessory units, not each one individually. But the Court of Special Appeals disagreed with that interpretation, stating the “50% Rule” applies to each accessory unit separately, not the entire lot. 

“Even accounting for the singular including the plural, the 50% Rule is still directed at the accessory buildings, not the lot. It says how big the accessory buildings can be,” Court of Special Appeals Judge Dan Friedman wrote in the decision.

Friedman also wrote that using the Board of Appeals’ interpretation of the rule is redundant to the county’s zoning code regarding overall lot coverage, which limits property owners to build on 15% of their lots.

If the county wants to change its code, it should do so through a zoning amendment by the County Council, which has jurisdiction over such matters, Friedman wrote. 

It is unclear if the Board of Appeals will appeal the decision to the state’s Court of Appeals, the highest court in Maryland.

Barbara Jay, executive director of the Board of Appeals, wrote in an email Friday she had “no information to share” regarding the case. 

Steve Bohnel can be reached at steve.bohnel@bethesdamagazine.com