Rockville parking lot dispute escalates -- Gazette.Net



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A long-brewing dispute over a Rockville funeral home’s desire to build a parking lot in a historic residential neighborhood has reached Maryland’s second-highest court.

On Wednesday, the Maryland Court of Special Appeals is scheduled to hear the case involving a dispute between the city of Rockville and Robert A. Pumphrey Funeral Home, which has been defending its plans to expand off-street parking onto an adjacent lot at 300 W. Montgomery Ave.

A three-judge panel will consider whether the city was wrong to repeal a text amendment that would have allowed Pumphrey to seek permits for the project. The court will also determine whether the city should have rejected Pumphrey’s request to combine the two parcels of land it owns at its Montgomery Avenue locale.

The case has escalated to the state’s second-highest court because the city of Rockville appealed a lower court’s ruling in Pumphrey’s favor.

Rockville City Attorney Debra Yerg Daniel declined to comment on the appeal. Soo Lee-Cho, an attorney representing the funeral home’s owners, also declined to comment.

Founded in 1854, the family-owned funeral home is located in Rockville’s historic West End district. The business was established at the Montgomery Avenue location in the 1920s, but funeral homes aren’t allowed in residential neighborhoods, under the Rockville’s current code. So to add a parking lot at Pumphrey would be considered an expansion of a non-conforming use, something the city’s planning staff has advised against, city records show.

The mayor and council voted in 2010 to change zoning laws, enabling Pumphrey to apply for permits. But the mayor and council overturned that decision in 2012 by a 3-2 vote.

In a 2012 report, planning staff argued that approving the parking lot could set a precedent in the West End neighborhood, posing a threat to the community’s historic charm.

Dissatisfied, William A. Pumphrey petitioned the court on the funeral home’s behalf. On April 29, 2013, Montgomery County Circuit Court Judge Eric M. Johnson sided with Pumphrey — a ruling the city appealed on May 29, 2013, court records show.

The loser in the Court of Special Appeals’s ruling can take the case to Maryland’s highest court, the Court of Appeals.

tarnold@gazette.net