ROCKVILLE CARS, LLC, d/b/a BMW of Rockville; PRIORITY 1 AUTOMOTIVE GROUP, INC., Plaintiffs - Appellants,
CITY OF ROCKVILLE, MARYLAND; ROBERT L. PURKEY, JR., In his personal capacity, Defendants - Appellees.
Argued: January 25, 2018
from the United States District Court for the District of
Maryland, at Greenbelt. Peter J. Messitte, Senior District
Benjamin Hoffman, Rockville, Maryland, for Appellants.
Bock Karpinski, KARPINSKI, COLARESI & KARP, P.A.,
Baltimore, Maryland, for Appellees.
D. Lee, KARPINSKI, COLARESI & KARP, P.A., Baltimore,
Maryland, for Appellees.
MOTZ and DIAZ, Circuit Judges, and Robert J. CONRAD, Jr.,
United States District Judge for the Western District of
North Carolina, sitting by designation.
J. CONRAD, JR., DISTRICT JUDGE:
Cars, LLC and Priority 1 Automotive Group, Inc.
("Rockville Cars"), brought a Section 1983 suit in
the District of Maryland against the City of Rockville,
Maryland ("the City") and its Acting Chief of
Inspection Services, Robert L. Purkey, Jr. In its action,
Rockville Cars alleged a violation of its procedural due
process rights under the Fourteenth Amendment when the City
suspended its building permit. The City filed a Motion to
Dismiss, which the District Court granted. Rockville Cars now
appeals the District Court's decision.
agree with the District Court and affirm its decision. A
property right failed to vest in Rockville Cars' building
permit when its application contained material
misrepresentations. Furthermore, even if Rockville Cars did
have a property interest, it failed to take advantage of the
sufficient process afforded to it by the state.
pursuit of its business selling new and used cars, Rockville
Cars leased a parcel of land owned by Robin Tang in
Rockville, Maryland. On this leased plot stood a building
which previously housed a restaurant and a small furniture
store. Rockville Cars planned to convert this building into
an automobile show room.
commencing its work on the building, Rockville Cars submitted
two documents to the City in order to obtain a building
permit. First, Rockville Cars sent a Minor Site Plan
Application on October 17, 2012, to the City's Department
of Community Planning and Development Services. This
department would determine whether Rockville Cars'
renovation plans complied with the City's zoning
ordinances. In its Minor Site Plan Application, Rockville
Cars accurately listed Robin Tang as the owner of the parcel
of land and obtained his permission to begin redevelopment of
the existing building. The project narrative stated that
Rockville Cars would repurpose the building into a show room
that would house approximately four cars. Specifically,
Rockville Cars disclosed that the show room would
"replace the vacated, approved restaurant use within the
existing building." J.A. 46.
four months later, in February 28, 2013, Rockville Cars filed
a second document, a Commercial Building Permit Application
("Permit Application"), to a separate division of
the Planning Department, the Inspection Services Division.
This division's bailiwick did not include determining
compliance with the City's zoning ordinances. It never
saw-nor did the Permit Application refer to-the Minor Site
Plan Application. The Permit Application featured two
differences from the Minor Site Plan Application. First,
under the project description, the Permit Application stated
that Rockville Cars would not just repurpose, but
demolish and renovate the building. The demolition
would leave the current building's existing foundation
and partial walls unchanged, but Rockville Cars would
otherwise rebuild within that footprint. Second, the Permit
Application mistakenly listed Priority One Automotive as the
property owner rather than Mr. Tang.
receiving the Permit Application, the City approved the
renovation of the Rockville Pike building on March 21, 2013,
and issued a permit in Mr. Tang's name. With the permit
in hand, Rockville Cars razed the leased building, leaving
only the foundational slab. Rockville Cars' plans,
however, would soon come to a grinding halt. On July 17,
2013, Rockville Cars received an email relaying that Mr. Tang
contacted the City and retracted his permission underlying
the building permit. Accordingly, on July 19, Acting Chief of
Inspection Services for the City, Robert Purkey, Jr.,
suspended Rockville Cars' building permit through a
written Stop Work Order. The order explained that Mr. Tang
claimed Rockville Cars lacked the authority to submit a
building permit application. Additionally, the Stop Work
Order stated that the scope of the project did not comport
with the Minor Site Plan Amendment, which the City previously
December of 2013, the City sent Rockville Cars a letter
further detailing why it suspended the building permit. The
City explained that the demolition of the building resulted
in a violation of the City's zoning ordinances.
Specifically, a "build-to" provision applied along
the commercial strip upon which Mr. Tang's property was
located. This ordinance mandated the construction of new
buildings within a certain distance from the road. The
original building predated the build-to provision and
therefore was exempted from compliance. The City Code would
have allowed this exception to continue if Rockville Cars
merely renovated the interior of the original building.
However, because Rockville Cars demolished the
building, Rockville Cars was then required to build any new
structure in accordance with the build-to provision.
following year, on May 16, 2014, Rockville Cars submitted a
new application which the City approved. To restart
construction, Rockville Cars conceded to numerous demands at
a considerable expense. As a result, Rockville Cars brought
suit in the District of Maryland claiming that suspension of
the building permit violated its procedural due process
rights under the Fourteenth Amendment. In Rockville Cars'
sprint to federal court, it chose not to first pursue its
claim through the City's Board of Adjusters and Appeals.
As laid out in the Rockville City Code, Chapter 5, Article 5,
Section 113.1, this Board of Appeals allowed claims for
"[a]ny person aggrieved by and desirous of challenging a
decision of the administrative authority in connection with
the interpretation, application, or modification of any
provision … relating to the manner of construction or
material used in connection with the erection, alteration, or
repair of a building." J.A. 28.
City responded to Rockville Cars' complaint by filing a
Motion to Dismiss the Amended Complaint, or, in the
Alternative, Motion for Summary Judgment. The District
Court granted the City's Motion, concluding that no
property interest vested in a building permit granted on the
basis of material misrepresentations within an application.
Rockville Cars, LLC v. City of Rockville, Maryland,
No. CV PJM 15-3375, 2017 WL 57215, at *6 (D. Md. Jan. 4,
2017). It also found in the alternative that, even if
Rockville Cars obtained a property interest, it was not
deprived of that interest. Id. at *6-7. Going
further, the District Court also concluded that, even if
Rockville Cars was deprived of its property interest, it was
nonetheless afforded due process. Id. at *7-8. The
District Court explained that Rockville Cars had access to
post-deprivation process but "gave the matter little or
no thought." Id. at *9. Not only did the
District Court point to ...