Attorney Joseph Suntum to Speak at National Eminent Domain and Land Valuation Litigation Conference

Miller, Miller & Canby Eminent Domain attorney Joseph (Joe) Suntum will be joining the faculty for the American Law Institute’s 35th Annual Eminent Domain and Land Valuation Litigation Conference, to be held in Charleston, South Carolina on January 25-27, 2018. The conference draws hundreds of eminent domain practitioners from all over the country, and is recommended for experienced practitioners as well as those new to the field. In addition to pertinent information such as effective case planning strategies and tips on staying current in eminent domain practice, discussions are targeted for attendees to learn about emerging issues.

Mr. Suntum’s presentation is part of the “Condemnation 101” portion of the conference directed to new practitioners in the field of eminent domain law, and is titled “Back to Basics: An Overview of Common Condemnation Issues.”  This is the 10th year that Mr. Suntum has been a member of the faculty for this highly-regarded event. He will be joined at the conference by Miller, Miller & Canby’s eminent domain practice group, James Thompson, Diane Feuerherd and Callie Carnemark.

The conference is sold out for live attendance, but interested persons may sign up for the live webcast by visiting this link.

Joe Suntum
is a principal with Miller, Miller & Canby and leads the firm’s Eminent Domain and Condemnation Group. His decades of trial experience and his in-depth knowledge of real property valuation and the law of eminent domain allow him to protect his clients’ property rights and maximize compensation for his clients when their properties are targeted for condemnation. Mr. Suntum speaks regularly on issues pertaining to eminent domain practice. He is the Owners’ Counsel of America (OCA) member attorney for the State of Maryland. Membership in the OCA, a national network of experienced condemnation attorneys who represent property owners in federal, state and local condemnation proceedings, is restricted to only one member attorney per state.

For more information about the practice of Eminent Domain, or if you have questions about your rights as a property owner, contact Joe Suntum at 301-762-5212.

Property Owners Have 45 Days to Appeal New Maryland Property Tax Assessments

Last week, the Maryland Department of Assessments and Taxation (SDAT) issued new Assessment Notices to owners of one-third of all commercial and residential properties in Maryland.  For instance, in Montgomery County, commercial properties in Rockville and Gaithersburg were reassessed.  In Frederick County, commercial properties in Ijamsville, Emmitsburg, Thurmont and portions of Frederick were reassessed.  In Prince George’s County, commercial properties in Bladensburg, District Heights, Landover, Lanham and Suitland were reassessed.

Property owners have 45 days from the date of the Assessment Notice to challenge these new assessments.  The “first-level” appeal takes place at the local Assessment Office.  If the assessor refuses to reduce the assessment, the owner may file a further appeal to the county Property Tax Assessment Appeals Board (PTAAB).   This Board will consider the evidence and issue a written decision, usually within two weeks.  If the property owner is still dissatisfied, another appeal may be filed to the Maryland Tax Court.

Miller, Miller & Canby has been challenging the assessments of various types of properties in Maryland for more than 30 years and has obtained substantial reductions in real property assessments for our clients.  Our litigation attorneys regularly represent clients before the local Assessment Office, PTAAB and the Maryland Tax Court.  We have successfully appealed the assessments on office buildings, retail stores, senior living centers, warehouses, industrial sites, casinos, apartment buildings and cemeteries.  Let us help you reduce your Maryland property assessments in 2017.  

Michael Campbell
is a partner in the litigation group at Miller, Miller & Canby.  In addition to trial and appellate advocacy, his practice focuses on real estate litigation and property tax assessment appeals.  Please feel free to contact Mr. Campbell at 301.762.5212 or send him an email for property tax guidance or to help reduce your commercial Maryland property tax assessment.  For more information about the firm’s Maryland property tax appeals practice and representative cases, click here.

Diane Feuerherd Joins the Maryland State Bar Association’s Maryland Appellate Blog as Blog Manager

Miller, Miller & Canby’s Diane Feuerherd has joined the Maryland State Bar Association’s Maryland Appellate Blog as its Blog Manager. Founded in 2013, the Maryland Appellate Blog is sponsored by the MSBA Litigation Section, and is dedicated to disseminating information about appellate practice and appellate law. The blog covers news from Maryland’s Court of Appeals and Court of Special Appeals, as well as the U.S. Supreme Court and U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. It features commentary from a number of contributors and guest authors, including coverage of notable arguments, practice tips, commentary on implications of specific rulings or trends, and interviews with appellate judges.  “I am thrilled to be working with other members of the Maryland Appellate Blog to continue its tradition of spreading important Maryland legal news and fostering community and dialogue among appellate practitioners,” said Ms. Feuerherd.  

Click here
to view recent blog entries.

Diane Feuerherd
is an associate in Miller, Miller & Canby’s Litigation Practice Group and focuses her practice in appellate, commercial and business litigation. She has successfully represented individuals, property owners, and businesses in a variety of matters ranging from administrative hearings before the Board of Appeals of Montgomery County, to trials in state and federal courts, and to appeals before the Court of Special Appeals and Court of Appeals. She may be reached at 301-762-5212.

5G Wireless Telecommunications Driving Wireless Infrastructure Development in DMV

In the past several years, state and local governments nationwide have been under increased pressure to grant wireless infrastructure site approvals to expand wireless technology connectivity, in order to meet dramatically increasing consumer demand for better and faster service. In fact, the use of data (watching videos and television, searching the internet, sending photos, using social media, etc.) on mobile devices increased 42 percent from 2015 to 2016.  Sixty-one percent of mobile traffic consists of watching videos, and this is projected to grow to 77 percent by 2020.

The Effect on Local Municipalities
Montgomery County and the City of Gaithersburg are both currently reviewing how they will handle the growing number of requests from a land use perspective to place wireless antennas within their borders. In the past, the practice was to place antennas on the tallest buildings, towers and water tanks. As wireless technology is evolving, local governments are receiving more applications to deploy cell antennas on smaller structures in residential neighborhoods and commercial areas. Federal law does not allow local jurisdictions to enact zoning laws that would prohibit wireless service. Therefore, in Montgomery County and the City of Gaithersburg zoning text amendments (ZTAs) are being proposed to allow for practices that enhance optimal service, while regulating the nature of exactly where these antennas may be placed and how they will screened to protect the aesthetics of community neighborhoods and commercial areas.

What Landowners Need to Know
The need for a large number of locations for new wireless infrastructure facilities will involve landowners, wireless companies and local governments in dramatic ways.  “Property owners in Montgomery County and surrounding areas who own smaller buildings and lower-height properties, as well as undeveloped land, should be advised that they may be approached for the next wave of 5G (5th Generation) installation locations,” said Miller, Miller & Canby’s telecommunications attorney Sean Hughes. “There are a number of stipulations these groups should be aware of with respect to the process of navigating leases, franchise agreements and land use entitlements.”

Sean Hughes is a member of Miller, Miller & Canby’s Land Use practice group. His career spans more than two decades of focus in legal and wireless telecommunications.
For more information about Miller, Miller & Canby’s Land Use practice, please contact Sean Hughes at 301.762.5212 or click here.

Miller, Miller & Canby Hosts Book Signing for Royce Hanson

Suburb: Planning Politics and the Public Interest Offers Rare and Insightful Look at the Transformation of Montgomery County, MD

Royce Hanson, former Montgomery County Planning Board President, author, civic leader and research professor at the George Washington Institute of Public Policy, has released his new book, Suburb: Planning Politics and the Public Interest. The book looks at the history of Montgomery County over the past 100 years, exploring notable land use policies during a time of significant growth and change.
On November 14, the Land Use and Real Estate departments of leading Maryland law firm, Miller, Miller & Canby, hosted a talk and book signing for Mr. Hanson in North Bethesda, Maryland.  The Washington Post’s Roger Lewis was on hand to provide introductory remarks before Mr. Hanson spoke briefly about his motivation for writing the book.  Suburb tells the story of Montgomery County’s transformation from a rural entity into a community of more than one million people. Throughout this remarkable period of growth, the county built a stellar reputation for strategic land use decisions that were progressive and innovative while serving the public interest. “Much of what the county accomplished,” writes Mr. Hanson, “can be attributed to a general plan that presented a pervasive vision that looked forward half a century, rather than fixate on immediate challenges.”
Through this study of Montgomery County, Suburb shares a rare and insightful view of the process, and provides a valuable resource for citizens, planners, government officials and developers seeking to learn more about zoning and planning for the benefit of any community.

Added Senior Land Use Department lawyer, Jody Kline, “There are young real estate attorneys who are coming into practice here who don’t know about Montgomery County’s history. This is an important work, not only to teach a new generation here about our county, but to also educate and inspire real estate professionals and community advocates nationwide.”

In addition to a distinguished career in academia, Mr. Hanson served for many years in leadership positions on the Montgomery County Planning Board and the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, as well as the Committee on National Urban Policy and National Research Council. He has won numerous awards for his service, including the AIA Kai Medal for contributions to planning and urban design, and the American Planning Association’s Benjamin Banneker Award and Frederick Gutheim Distinguished Leadership Award.

Suburb can be ordered here.

Click the download link below to view the full press release.

The book signing was featured in the December 2017 issue of The Washington Business Journal. See feature below.

October 2017 Legal News & Notes

The October 2017 issue of Miller, Miller & Canby's Legal News & Notes quarterly email newsletter covers a Purple Line update, recent litigation wins,  tips for start-up businesses and much more.  Click here to view newsletter.

MM&C Among the Sponsors of MDDCWA Golf Tournament; Raising $38,000 for Local Charities

Photo Credit: Mike Keller PhotoThe Maryland DC Wireless Association’s Ninth Annual Golf Tournament took place on September 27, 2017 at the Whiskey Creek Golf Club in Ijamsville, Maryland. It brought together members of the association, as well as friends, colleagues and community members for a relaxing day of golf in support of various worthy charities. Miller, Miller & Canby was a sponsor of this year’s event which raised $38,000.  

Miller, Miller & Canby’s Sean Hughes serves on the board for the Maryland DC Wireless Association and, along with other board members, is involved in testifying and providing key insight for policymakers concerning wireless legislative issues and amendments on the local, state and even federal level, as well as raising funds for charitable causes through events like its annual golf event. Each board member is able to direct a portion of the proceeds to a needy charitable organization. Miller, Miller and Canby has directed its portion to the American Red Cross in support of hurricane relief efforts in Puerto Rico.  

Sean Hughes
is a member of Miller, Miller & Canby’s Land Use practice group. His career spans more than two decades of focus in legal and wireless telecommunications.
For more information about Miller, Miller & Canby’s Land Use practice, please contact Sean Hughes at 301.762.5212 or click here.

Photo Credit: Mike Keller Photo

Starting a New Business? Having a Trusted Team of Legal and Financial Advisors is a Key to Success

Starting a new business is a very exciting time for entrepreneurs with future success in mind. Having a start-up team of trusted financial and legal advisers that includes bankers, lawyers and accountants who listen to your goals and provide cohesive advice is one of the key ingredients to future business success.

Why Hire A Business Law Attorney?
In today’s high-tech world, there are several online resources available to get your business started that may seem cost effective. Keep in mind the old saying, “You get what you pay for”. There is seldom a one size fits all strategy for structuring a business. The key is to find a business and tax attorney who can discuss the issues that the new business owner should consider, explain options, and map out the best strategy for the business owner based on his or her particular needs. Many may want to choose one form of entity over another because they know someone else who chose that form. However, just because an S Corp was the right entity for your father (as he had taken Social Security at 62 and didn’t want the income from the side business to reduce his Social Security benefits), or a friend of a friend set up a C Corp (to maximize certain retirement plan benefits for his long-term financial plan), or a co-worker who set up an LLC (as one of the owners was not a US Person), that doesn’t mean that is the right choice for you and your new business.

The Small Business Administration has outlined “10 Steps to Start Your Business” on their website. Below is a summary of the 10 point plan from the SBA and the steps where a business lawyer should be engaged.

Step 1: Conduct Market Research
Is there an opportunity to turn your idea into a success? Do your research to find a competitive advantage.

Step 2: Write a Business Plan
A well written business plan is your roadmap to success. A business attorney should be consulted during this step to help write the plan to show investors and key stakeholders that you have addressed all legal aspects to make your business a success.

Step 3: Fund the Business
How much money do you need to start the business? If you don’t have the funds, do you borrow or raise the capital needed? A financial advisor should be involved in this step.

Step 4: Pick a Location
Whether your new business is in a physical location or an online store, there is an effect on taxes, legal requirements and revenue.  You should obtain advice from your attorney and accountant in this step.

Step 5: Choose Your Business Structure
Choice of entity for your business impacts personal liability, taxes and most importantly business registration legal requirements. A business attorney with experience in the location of your business is critical during this stage.

Step 6: Choose a Business Name
Choosing the perfect name that reflects your brand may keep you up at night. A business attorney should be engaged to ensure you have rights to the name you select.

Step 7: Register the Business
A business lawyer is critical in this step to make your business legal and protect your brand. You need an attorney who directs your business registration with federal, state and local governments.

Step 8: Obtain Federal and State Tax IDs
Your Employer Identification Number (EIN) needs to be obtained to start and grow your business. Some states require a state tax ID as well.  A business and tax attorney can help you obtain all ID’s that are legally required for your business.

Step 9: Apply for Licenses and Permits
A business attorney will help you keep your business running smoothly by staying legally compliant. Licenses and permits vary by industry, state, location and other factors. Engaging a knowledgeable business lawyer during this step is important.

Step 10: Open a Business Bank Account
Once you have all the business registrations and paperwork completed, it is time to open a small business checking account.

Miller, Miller & Canby’s business law attorneys have over 70 years of experience assisting small businesses as well as large corporations in all aspects of business law and corporate planning, including choice of entity, entity formation and dissolution of taxable and tax-exempt entities, corporate reorganizations, mergers, acquisitions, and business succession. As both CPAs and practicing attorneys, MM&C attorneys are an incredible resource as legal, tax and financial advisors to our clients.

Please feel free to contact any of the business & tax attorneys at Miller, Miller & Canby at 301-762-5212 with your business start-up or legal needs.  View more information about Miller, Miller & Canby's Business & Tax practice by clicking here.  

Best Lawyers Releases 2018 List of Honorees, Includes MM&C Attorneys James Thompson and Jody Kline

Best Lawyers® released the 2018 Edition of Best Lawyers in America on September 29, 2017. The stand-alone publication highlights 2,886 lawyers recognized for their top legal talent, along with 103 “Lawyer of the Year” recipients from the Washington D.C. metro area. Additionally, the publication features notable local news and profiles of firms and individuals across the region.

Best Lawyers in America will be mailed to recognized lawyers in the Washington, D.C. metro area. The publication will also be distributed in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and the Washington Post in the Washington, D.C. metro area.

Miller, Miller & Canby’s Jim Thompson and Jody Kline have been recognized on the Best Lawyers list in their respective areas of practice every year since first being named in 2007. Mr. Thompson has been recognized for Eminent Domain and Condemnation Law and Mr. Kline for Land Use and Zoning Law. In 2013, Mr. Thompson was also named a “Best Lawyer of the Year” for his accomplishments. This prestigious award is a testament to their long-standing reputations for their individual legal abilities and professionalism.  

Jim Thompson
has been a leader in Miller, Miller & Canby's Litigation Group for more than 35 years, concentrating his practice in eminent domain (with partner Joe Suntum) and in real estate valuation litigation, as well as in property tax assessment appeals and general civil litigation. For more than a decade, Mr. Thompson represented Maryland as the sole member in the Owners’ Counsel of America, a national network of property rights attorneys with demonstrated excellence in this area, focusing upon the representation of landowners in eminent domain litigation. Currently Mr. Suntum is the selected member for the state of Maryland. With Mr. Thompson’s breadth of legal experience, proven results, mature judgment, and tenured leadership within the judicial system and the bar, having served as president of the Maryland State Bar Association, he brings the ideal blend of proven trial experience and legal skill to client representations.

Jody Kline
has led Miller, Miller & Canby’s Land Development department since 1981, focusing his practice in land use, zoning and subdivision law and representing clients in many of Montgomery County’s planning and economic development initiatives. In addition to zoning and subdivision law, he represents clients in matters related to master planning, zoning text amendments, conditional use permits, building permit issuance, and other administrative and real estate matters related to land use and development. His clients include residential and commercial developers, private individuals, religious institutions, private schools, non-profit entities and municipal corporations and agencies.

"For more than a third of a century," says Best Lawyers CEO Steven Naifeh, "Best Lawyers has been the gold standard of excellence in the legal profession." President Phil Greer adds, "We are extremely proud of that record and equally proud to acknowledge the accomplishments of these exceptional legal professionals."

Best Lawyers® is the oldest and most respected attorney ranking service in the world. For more than 30 years, the organization as assisted those in need of legal services to identify the attorneys best qualified to represent them in distant jurisdictions or unfamiliar specialties. Best Lawyers lists are published in leading local, regional, and national publications across the globe.

For more information about Jim Thompson and Miller, Miller & Canby’s Eminent Domain and Condemnation Law practice click here or for information about Jody Kline and Miller, Miller & Canby's Land Use and Zoning Law practice click here.


Purple Line Update: Project Timeline And Current Status Of Construction

The State of Maryland awarded a $5.6 billion dollar contract to design, build and operate the Purple Line light rail project in April 2016 and authorized the contractor, the Purple Line Transit Partners, to proceed with “pre-construction activities” while the State pursued finalizing a full funding agreement with the federal government, which had promised to contribute $900 million dollars to the project. On July 28, 2016 the State announced that the formal signing of a full funding agreement with the Federal Transit Administration had been scheduled to take place on August 8, 2016. It was anticipated that construction of the Purple Line would begin shortly thereafter. But a judge on the United States District Court for the District of Columbia had other ideas.

August 3, 2016         
The U.S. District Court (Leon, J.) vacated the Record of Decision (“ROD”), which was the required federal approval of the Purple Line, and directed the State to prepare a supplemental environmental impact statement addressing whether a decline in Metro ridership would impact the Purple Line’s ridership. The vacation of the ROD precluded the State from receiving the $900 million of federal funding which had been committed to the project. Thus, the court’s order put the entire project in jeopardy.

December 16, 2016
The State advised the District Court that it had reviewed the ridership issue and determined that no change in Metro ridership would adversely impact the Purple Line, as the Purple Line would still be needed even if no Metro riders transferred to the light rail. The State asked the Court to reinstate the ROD.

December 2016 – March 2017
The Court failed to rule on the State’s request that the ROD be reinstated, so the project remained stalled and in jeopardy of failing completely.

March 31, 2017
The State filed a motion asking that the Court rule on its pending motion expeditiously. Specifically, the State asked that the Court rule on its motion no later than April 28, 2017. The Court failed to decide the State’s motion by the end of April as the State had requested it to do and the court continued to hold the State’s motion under advisement without issuing a decision.

May 12, 2017
The State sought a writ of mandamus from the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia asking the Court of Appeals to order the District Court to issue a final appealable decision in the case “forthwith.”

May 22, 2017
The District Court finally issued a decision in favor of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit and against the State holding that the State’s failure to prepare a supplemental environmental impact statement was arbitrary and capricious—and the District Court reiterated its requirement that the State prepare a new environmental impact statement before it would be permitted to move forward with the project.

May 29, 2017
The District Court issued a final judgment on the underlying lawsuit, which made it possible for the State to finally file an appeal.

June 2, 2017
The State filed a motion asking the District Court to stay its
August 3, 2016 Order vacating the ROD pending the State’s appeal of the court’s decision.

June 15, 2017
The District Court held a hearing on the State’s request that it stay its Order vacating the ROD pending the State’s appeal. The State asked the District Court to rule expeditiously on its motion. At the hearing the District Court advised the State that it could not “predict” how long it may take to issue a decision on the State’s motion for a stay pending appeal. The court stated that it was going to write an opinion because “[t]he Court of Appeals likes things with ribbons and bows on them, so they will get ribbons and bows.”

June 21, 2017
Because the District Court had failed to rule on its motion, the State filed a motion in the Court of Appeals asking the appellate court to stay the District Court’s order pending appeal.

June 26, 2017
The District Court issued its Order denying the State’s request for a stay pending appeal.

July 18, 2017
The Court of Appeals issued an Order reinstating the ROD pending its consideration of the State’s appeal of the District Court’s judgment.

Once the Record of Decision was reinstated, the State aggressively pursued formalizing the federal government’s commitment of $900 million to the project. Construction of the project was still effectively stayed, as the State could not go forward with the project without the promised federal funding.

August 28, 2017    
The Federal Transit Administration signed the Full Funding Agreement with the State officially committing federal funds to the project.
Construction of the Purple Line is now over a full year behind the original schedule. Consequently, the State and the contractor moved aggressively to begin construction and make up for lost time.  

August 29, 2017    
The very next day after the FTA signed the Full Funding Agreement, the contractor posted public notices that the Georgetown Branch Trail would be closed for the anticipated five-year period of construction beginning Tuesday, September 5, 2017. In addition, property acquisition and tenant and owner relocation activities were accelerated.  And, because the Maryland Office of Attorney General, which prosecutes eminent domain cases for the Purple Line, was overwhelmed by the number of open and unresolved cases, the State has engaged a private law firm to handle some of the cases to expedite the property acquisition process.

The State’s acceleration of construction and property acquisition has led to many questions from the public concerning the schedule of construction and when, exactly, construction activities will begin at different points along the 16-mile route.

September 28, 2017
The Montgomery County Council held a hearing where it asked the Purple Line contractor (Purple Line Transit Partners) and State representatives to advise the County Council of the expected construction schedule and many other issues. The contractor advised the County Council that it was working on a master construction schedule, but it has not yet completed that effort. The contractor advised that once the schedule was complete it would be posted on the Purple Line Project Website.  You may view a videotape of the hearing by clicking here.

In addition, the contractor explained that it hoped to provide weekly updates to the construction schedule as the project moves forward. And interested members of the public could sign up to receive project updates and other information by Email or text by clicking on this page of the website.  Finally, the contractor will hold regular meetings with the Community Advisory Councils that have been formed to be liaisons between the project and the community. A list of the Community Advisory Councils and how to contact them may also be found on the project website by clicking here.

The eminent domain attorneys at Miller, Miller & Canby will review any offer made by the State without charge to determine whether we believe you may be entitled to greater compensation than has been offered by the State.  If you are interested in a no obligation review of your offer, or if you have any questions about your rights or the condemnation process, please call our office at 301-762-5212 and ask to speak with one of our eminent domain attorneys, Jim Thompson or Joe Suntum.  To learn more about our eminent domain and condemnation law practice and representative cases, click here.


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