Comp Lite – and its associated lawsuit -- is in the news again today. The latest development in the ongoing battle over the junior rezoning process is a motion filed by the county asking to have the case thrown out of court. From the Sun:
In a formal response, the county claims the residents lack legal standing and waited too long to contest the legislation authorizing the Comp Lite process.
The latter point invokes not the doctrine of statute of limitations but of "laches," which states that a legal right or claim will not be allowed if a deliberate and long delay in asserting that claim has adversely harmed the defendant.
Such delays may be regarded as a "legal ambush," according to the legal Web site law.com.
The County Council passed legislation authorizing Comp Lite on May 3, 2004, but the lawsuit challenging that action was not filed until two years later, the county's filing with the court notes.
"By delaying over two years," the filing says, "plaintiffs put in jeopardy ... potentially the county's zoning regulations that affect thousands of property owners."
Having wisely decided against law school, I can’t speak to the legal merits of this argument, but from a practical perspective, the decision delay a court challenge of the legislation in favor of a referendum probably hurt the opponents’ cause. Ultimately, the question of its legal status needs to be answered by a judge, not voters. Regardless of if they voted for it or against it, Comp Lite is what it is, legal or illegal. And we’ll have that answer eventually, likely following at least one appeal.
The Examiner’s story on this case is here.