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Meredith v. Talbot County

ELR Citation: 18 ELR 21390
Nos. No. 87-1584, 828 F.2d 228/(4th Cir., 09/08/1987)

The court holds that the district court properly abstained from deciding a developer's challenge to a county's refusal to allow residential development on a portion of the developer's land pursuant to the Chesapeake Bay Critical Area Protection Program. The county decided that the subdivision plat did not comply with the Critical Area Program because two endangered species, the American bald eagle and the Delmarva fox squirrel, inhabit the area. The court holds that Burford abstention is appropriate because the complaint implicates local land use policies and a complex state regulatory scheme with several layers of review. Pullman abstention is also appropriate because the constitutional issues raised by plaintiff's takings claim could be avoided by a decision based on the Critical Area Program, which has not been interpreted by Maryland's courts. The court holds that the district court did not err in dismissing the complaint, rather than retaining jurisdiction, since Burford abstention is significantly involved.

[A subsequent state court decision is published at 18 ELR 21393.]

Counsel for Plaintiffs-Appellants
George Joseph Goldsborough Jr., Richard S. Phillips
Goldsborough & Tolley
111 N. Washington St., P.O. Box 1148, Easton MD 21601
(301) 822-4888

Counsel for Defendants-Appellees
Walter Staples Hairston, James M. Slay Jr., James A. Chance
Henry, Hairston & Price
National Bank Bldg., P.O. Box 838, Easton MD 21601
(301) 822-2600

J. Joseph Curran Jr., Attorney General; Thomas A. Deming, Ass't Attorney General
7 N. Calvert St., Baltimore MD 21209
(301) 576-6300

Before CHAPMAN and WILKINS, Circuit Judges, and HAMILTON, United States District Judge for the District of South Carolina, sitting by designation.