MM&C Attorneys James Thompson and Jody Kline Honored for the 13th Year as Best Lawyers in America


Best Lawyers® released the 25th Edition of Best Lawyers in America on August 15, 2018. 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 (with partner Mike Campbell) 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.

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. View the firm press release by clicking the Download button below.





New Maryland Law Imposes Liability on General Contractor for Subcontractor's Failure to Pay Wages


Maryland general contractors be alert!  Effective October 1, 2018, Maryland law imposes new liability on general contractors for unpaid wages on a project.  The General Contractor Liability for Unpaid Wages Act (the “Act”) is modeled on a recent District of Columbia law.  The law is designed to ensure that subcontractors comply with state wage laws and pay their employees in a timely manner. If the subcontractor fails to pay as required, the general contractor will now be jointly and severally liable for such failure in accordance with Maryland wage & hour laws, which can include punitive (treble) damages and attorney’s fees. The Act also applies to sub-subcontractors on down, which means a general contractor can be liable for wage violations at any tier of a project.

General Contractor Should Include Indemnification Clause in Subcontract

The Act requires the subcontractor to indemnify the general contractor for "any wages, damages, interest, penalties, or attorney's fees owed as a result of the subcontractor's violation," unless indemnification is provided for in a contract between the general contractor and the subcontractor, or if the subcontractor was unable to pay its employees because the general contractor failed to pay the subcontractor as required. An indemnification clause should be written into the subcontract for added security, although this will only be beneficial if the subcontractor is solvent and has the ability to reimburse the general contractor.  If the subcontractor goes out of business or declares bankruptcy, the general contractor is fully on the hook for damages.  

General Contractor Should be Selective with Subcontractors

In light of this new risk, the general contractor should be selective in awarding projects to subcontractors.  The general contractor would be wise to avoid contracting with unknown companies unless a bond or other security is posted by the subcontractor.  Additionally, the subcontract should require the subcontractor to produce on demand its certified payroll records to prove compliance with wage laws.

Michael Campbell
is a partner in the litigation group at Miller, Miller & Canby. He focuses his practice on commercial, real estate and construction litigation.  Please feel free to contact Mr. Campbell at 301.762.5212 or send him an email for an inquiry.  For more information about the firm’s litigation practice, click here. For more information about the firm’s business and contract law practice, click here.





Miller, Miller & Canby Welcomes Attorney Cathy Borten to Real Estate Practice Group


Miller, Miller & Canby is pleased to welcome Cathy Borten to the real estate practice group, where she will focus in commercial real estate transactions and leasing, real estate litigation, and commercial financings and settlements.

During the course of her twenty-year career, Ms. Borten has negotiated and drafted leases and amendments for a variety of properties, including shopping centers, government facilities, airports, hotels, hospitals and retail establishments. She has also handled land use and zoning matters, appearing before county and city government bodies and pursuing zoning and text amendments in cities and counties and has represented clients in contested proceedings in both trial courts and in appellate matters. Prior to joining Miller, Miller & Canby, she was a partner in the Law Office of M. Gregg Diamond, P.C., of Bethesda, Maryland. Prior to this, she worked for the City of Gaithersburg, serving as the first in-house counsel for the city. There, she advised the Mayor and City Council and Planning Commission and drafted legislation to address a variety of city matters. She represented the City’s Planning & Code Enforcement Department in code violation proceedings, drafted and reviewed city contracts, and represented and advised city departments. She began her career working as a Law Clerk for The Honorable Paul H. Weinstein in the Circuit Court for Montgomery County, Maryland, after which she worked as an associate for a law firm in Montgomery County, handling matters for a diverse client base that included developers, wireless telecommunications firms and municipalities.

Ms. Borten is licensed to practice law in Maryland and the District of Columbia. She earned her Juris Doctorate, graduating cum laude, from Washington & Lee University School of Law and received her B.A. in Communication Arts from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Click the download button below to view the firm's formal press release. For more information about Miller, Miller & Canby’s Real Estate Practice, click here or contact Cathy at 301-762-5212.





Miller, Miller & Canby Welcomes New Litigation Attorney James Roth


Miller, Miller & Canby is pleased to welcome James (Jamie) Roth to the firm’s Litigation Practice Group, where he will concentrate his practice in real estate litigation with a focus in eminent domain, as well as business and commercial litigation.

“Miller, Miller & Canby’s litigation practice has a long-standing commitment of serving businesses and property owners in our community,” said senior litigation partner James Thompson. “The addition of Jamie, with his comprehensive public and private sector experience, will help us to further expand the breadth of our services during a critical time of growth in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area.”

Mr. Roth enjoyed a distinguished career as a successful real estate consultant, including more than twenty years of experience in project management, strategic planning, asset management and risk mitigation.

Prior to joining Miller, Miller & Canby, Mr. Roth was a Senior Consultant for LMI Government Consulting, where he served eleven years as a Real Estate Program Manager to his client, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), a component agency of the Department of Homeland Security. As an advisor to CBP, Mr. Roth worked closely with realty specialists from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), overseeing the real estate clearance process required for mission critical facility and border security infrastructure construction projects undertaken by CBP's Border Patrol and Air & Marine Program Management Office. In that capacity, he coordinated eminent domain litigation efforts, and supported counsel from CBP, Department of Justice and USACE.

Mr. Roth was awarded a civilian public service medal by Department of the Army for his key role in effecting more than 400 property acquisitions to successfully construct over 600 miles of border fence by 2009. Mr. Roth is also a former U.S. Coast Guard officer. His decorated service included three years as a civil engineer managing the myriad facilities requirements of 24 USCG stations along the Gulf Coast, and three years as Chief Engineer and third-in-command of a 210-foot Cutter in Miami Beach, Florida.

Mr. Roth is admitted to practice law in the state of Maryland. In addition to his law degree from The Catholic University's Columbus School of Law, he holds a MBA from Georgetown University, a B.S. in Civil Engineering from The United States Coast Guard Academy, and is a Certified Project Management Professional (PMP).

Click the download button below to view the firm's formal press release. For more information about Miller, Miller & Canby’s Litigation Practice, click here or contact Jamie at 301-762-5212.





Maryland Property Tax News: Tax Court Determines Value of Casino Land in Case of First Impression


In a case of first impression, the Maryland Tax Court recently considered how to value property subject to a 99-year ground lease with a percentage rent arrangement.   The unusual property tax case involved a lease that was entered into by a casino operator and shopping mall owner, in which the casino was responsible for the property taxes.  Casinos are highly regulated entities in Maryland, with operators required to obtain approval from the Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Commission and pay a large licensing fee.

 Under the ground lease, the casino was required to pay fixed minimum annual rent plus a variable 1% of annual  gross revenues (known as “percentage rent”) generated from gaming and retail sales.  The issue before the court was whether the ground lease should be used as the measure to assess fair market value of the land for ad valorem tax purposes.  The State argued that the lease must be relied upon under an income approach to value.  The casino argued that the ground lease could not be relied upon at all due to its connection to casino revenues.  Instead, the casino urged the court to utilize the sales comparable approach as the only reliable measure of land value.

In analyzing the issue, the Tax Court reviewed Maryland and Federal law related to valuing property subject to leases.  The general rule is that an assessor must consider the effect of a lease on valuation, but it should not be the controlling document in assessing value.  In this case, it was especially true because the ground lease was not a good indicator of property value for these reasons:

  1. The percentage rent provision in the ground lease was speculative and the revenue unknown at the time of execution; and

  2. Including percentage rent in an income approach risks valuing property based on business value instead of property value. Here, approximately two-thirds of the ground rent was derived from the casino business as percentage rent. 

The Maryland Tax Court held that such business income was not indicative of property value, particularly since the property cannot be freely sold in its current use due to the special licensing arrangement with the State.   

In rejecting the States reliance on an income approach using the ground lease, the Tax Court turned to the casino’s appraisal using a sales comparison approach.  The appraisal report listed sales of other properties on which casinos were ultimately constructed – Horseshoe Casino in Baltimore City and the MGM National Harbor Casino on Prince George’s County.   The court deemed that sales are the best indicator of land value for the subject property and reduced the land assessment by a whopping $71M for the 2011 tax cycle and $70M for the 2013 tax cycle, which resulted in a massive tax savings for the casino.  The case is PPE Casino Resorts Maryland LLC vs. Supervisor of Assessments of Anne Arundel County, Case Nos. 14-RP-AA-0503 (1-2) and 14-RP-AA-1276.

Miller, Miller & Canby has been handling assessment appeals of various types of commercial properties in Maryland for more than 30 years.  In 2016, we obtained over $20,000,000 in property assessment reductions for our clients.  Our litigation attorneys regularly represent clients at the assessor level, before the Property Tax Assessment Appeals Board (PTAAB) and in the Maryland Tax Court.  We have successfully appealed the assessments on office buildings, hotels, casinos, retail stores, industrial sites, warehouses, apartment buildings and land at various stages of development.  

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.  For more information about the firm’s Maryland property tax appeals practice and representative cases, click here.





MD DC Wireless Association Launches 2018 Speaker Series Luncheon on March 22


Miller, Miller & Canby’s Sean Hughes to moderate keynote speech of FCC Commissioner

As part of its annual Speaker Series, the Maryland-DC Wireless Association will hold a symposium luncheon on March 22 at Living Classroom’s Frederick Douglass-Isaac Myers Maritime Park in Baltimore. Over 150 attendees are expected to attend and Sean Hughes of Miller, Miller & Canby, a MD DC Wireless Association board member, will serve as moderator of a keynote speech and question and answer session.  Speakers will include:

Marc Ganzi, Executive Chairman of Vertical Bridge. Marc is the co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of Digital Bridge Holdings, LLC. He previously co-founded Global Tower Partners (GTP), an owner and operator of communications, real estate and related companies, where he played an instrumental role in building the business, which was ultimately sold in 2013 for over $4.8 billion.

Jennifer Fritzsche, Managing Director, Equity Research Group - Wells Fargo Securities. Jennifer is a top-ranked leader among 75 analysts in getting companies to meet clients via non-deal road shows. She lead a 3-member, award-winning research team as Senior Analyst covering the Telecommunications Services (Wired and Wireless), fiber, data centers and tower sectors. 

Brendan Carr, FCC Commissioner. Brendan was nominated to serve as a Commissioner of the FCC by President Donald J. Trump and was confirmed unanimously by the United States Senate on August 3, 2017. Commissioner Carr brings to the position over a dozen years of public and private sector experience in technology and communications law and policy.

Most recently, Commissioner Carr served as the General Counsel of the FCC. In that role, he served as the chief legal advisor to the Commission and FCC staff on all matters within the agency's jurisdiction. Previously, he served as the lead advisor to FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai on wireless, public safety, and international issues. Before that, he worked as an attorney in the FCC's Office of General Counsel, where he provided legal advice on a wide range of spectrum policy, competition, and public safety matters.

“The Speaker Series brings industry veterans together to identify issues and opportunities in wireless telecommunications,” said Sean Hughes, a telecommunications attorney in Miller, Miller & Canby’s Land Use practice and MDDCWA Board Member. “We are dedicated to advancing our industry and providing a productive and valuable platform for the exchange of ideas.”


Founded in 2007, the MDDCWA includes members who are involved with the deployment, operations and maintenance of wireless networks, including cell carriers, tower companies, A&E firms, surveyors, general contractors and others. Issues such as infrastructure, zoning and regulatory matters are key priorities for the organization. In 2017 the Association donated over $40,000 to charitable organizations.

Founded in Baltimore in 1985, Living Classrooms Foundation has grown into an educational and economic force that combines one of the city's most cherished assets - it’s beautiful and historic harbor - with some of its most overlooked - the thousands of bright, ambitious children and young adults who are struggling to succeed against terrible odds. What began with one program in one city has grown into dozens of programs across a region that now encompasses Washington, DC, Virginia, and Maryland.

To learn more about future association events, contact Sean Hughes, or visit the MDDCWA website.

Sean P. Hughes is an attorney in Miller, Miller & Canby’s Land Use practice group. His career spans more than two decades of focus in legal and wireless telecommunications and he has represented clients in land use and zoning matters throughout the Mid-Atlantic.  To learn more about the firm’s Land Use and Zoning practice, contact Sean.





Jody Kline Participates in University of Maryland Real Estate Development Program as Guest Lecturer


On Thursday, February 8, the University of Maryland’s Colvin Institute Real Estate Development Program hosted Miller, Miller & Canby’s land use and planning attorney Jody Kline. Mr. Kline addressed students in  “Introduction to the Principles, Practice and Process of Real Estate Development.” He was invited to speak by University of Maryland Professor Stephen Shapiro; Mr. Kline and Mr. Shapiro are both members in Lamda Alpha, an honorary land economics society.

The main objective of the comprehensive course is to provide a foundation for study of all aspects of real estate, to acquaint students with an overview of the real estate industry, including the development process, and to help students understand the roles of multiple parties, politics and citizens in real estate development.  The class also serves to help students understand how to analyze the development potential of real property sites.

In a lively question and answer discussion led by Professor Shapiro, Mr. Kline engaged with students representing a variety of different disciplines of study.  Drawing on his more than 45 years of experience in a successful land use and zoning practice, Mr. Kline brought valuable hands-on knowledge and perspectives to the students to help illustrate the concepts and skills they had been learning in the course.  Mr. Kline used real-world examples of several projects that have been impacted by zoning, in the context of discussing the personnel, processes and risks involved with the development of land.

Mr. Kline
has served as head of Miller, Miller & Canby’s Land Development practice group since 1981. He concentrates his practice in land use, zoning, and subdivision law.  During the course of his career, he has been involved in a number of important land development projects that have helped to shape Montgomery County. He has been featured as a Washingtonian Magazine “Top Lawyer”, and has also been named a Super Lawyer in the state of Maryland every year since 2008, as well as a recognized Best Lawyer for the past 11 consecutive years.  To learn more about Jody Kline  and Miller, Miller & Canby’s land development practice click here or contact Mr. Kline at 301.762.5212 or via email.

 





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


Miller, Miller & Canby Eminent Domain attorney Joseph (Joe) Suntum joined the faculty for the American Law Institute’s 35th Annual Eminent Domain and Land Valuation Litigation Conference, held in Charleston, South Carolina January 25-27, 2018. The conference drew hundreds of eminent domain practitioners from all over the country, and was 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 were targeted for attendees to learn about emerging issues.

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

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.
 





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.
 





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