December 20, 2012

Happy Holidays!

Taylor Legal will be closed December 24 and December 25, 2012, and again December 31, 2012 and January 1, 2013.

We wish everyone a happy and safe holiday season!

December 6, 2012

Comprehensive Rezoning Deadline is 12/14/12

From Howard County's Department of Planning and Zoning:
Deadline Fast Approaching for Comprehensive Rezoning Proposals
The Department of Planning and Zoning (DPZ) is accepting proposals for zoning map and regulation amendments through December 14, 2012 Any property owner may request a zoning map change on their property.  For example, if a property is zoned for residential use, but the owner of that property wants the property zoned for business use, a request may be submitted.  Requests for zoning regulation changes, also known as text changes, may be made by anyone.  Until December 14, 2012, proposals for both types of zoning changes should be made via the official request forms, which can be found on the County’s website ( 
The 2012 Comprehensive Rezoning effort will include the following steps:
1.    DPZ accepts requests for zoning map and regulation changes
2.    DPZ compiles and evaluates all requests
3.    DPZ submits recommended changes to Planning Board and posts all properties
4.    Planning Board conducts a public hearing on recommendations
5.    Planning Board submits recommended actions to the Administration and County Council
6.    The Administration’s revised proposal is introduced as legislation to the County Council for its consideration
7.    County Council holds a public hearing
8.    County Council votes on recommendations
For general information and questions about the comprehensive rezoning process, residents may submit specific inquiries via email at and/or contact the County’s information line at 410-313-0500

Proposed legislation would make residents members of CA

From the Baltimore Sun: Proposed legislation would make residents members of CA

November 29, 2012

Make Sure Your File Your Real Property Homestead Tax Credit Application by 12/31/12!

From Joe Wathen, my realtor of choice:


DECEMBER 31, 2012 is the deadline for filing your Application for Homestead Tax Credit. It does not matter whether you have owned your house one year or twenty years.  An application must be filed by the end of the calendar year.

If your application is already on file and approved, you DO NOT need to reapply.  It only takes a minute to check to see if you have filed and if you are approved.  Follow these steps:

Select your County
Enter your street number and street name. 
Do not include Street, Court, Drive, etc.
Look at the bottom of the page and see if your Homestead application was filed.  If it was filed, the entry will show the date your application was approved.

IF IT SAYS "NO APPLICATION" then click on this link for the application:

Also, even after you have filed and been approved, you may not receive a credit on your tax bill.  The credits only appear when the assessed value of the property has increased over the allowable limits each year.  With declining assessment values, you may not actually receive a dollar credit
each year.   To learn more about  how the Homestead tax credit is
calculated,  click on the link below:

Joe Wathen, ABR, CRS, GRI
Your Real Estate Consultant for Life
Full time Realtor since 1988
RE/MAX Hall of Fame
RE/MAX Advantage Realty
and the Bob Lucido Team
cell 410-707-4994
off 240-295-6000x1523
REMX007*Nobody Does It Better

November 19, 2012

Taylor Legal is Hiring an Office Administrator

Taylor Legal is looking for an Office Administrator who can work independently, is tenacious, extremely organized, trustworthy and tech-savvy. Legal office experience is a must.  The position will be approximately 10-12 hours per week, M,W, F from 10-2. The hours are flexible with advance notice.

If you know a suitable candidate, have them email Katherine Taylor at with a resume, pay requirements and references.

October 31, 2012

Taylor Legal Will Donate to Hurricane Sandy Relief Efforts

We sincerely wish the best for those adversely impacted by Hurricane Sandy. In an effort to provide relief to those suffering from the storm and the aftermath, Taylor Legal will be donating 10% of our net profit from the month of November 2012 to Team Rubicon. Team Rubicon is a nonprofit organization primarily composed of former military members who volunteer in the field for disaster areas, including areas affected by Hurricane Sandy.

For more information regarding Team Rubicon, please visit their website at

October 16, 2012

What is Howard County 2012 Comprehensive Zoning?

          Zoning or rezoning in Howard County is primarily conducted in two ways.  Approximately every ten years, the County Council undergoes a legislative process called comprehensive zoning during which county officials review the entire county zoning map, hold hearings, and, ultimately, making a legislative decision about how to best assign zones throughout the county.  In between Comprehensive Zoning cycles, through a process called piecemeal rezoning, individual property owners can petition for a rezoning of a particular parcel of land if the property owner can establish that there was a mistake during the last Comprehensive Zoning cycle that resulted in an incorrect zoning assignment or that there has been a significant change to the area such that the current zoning category is inconsistent.  The Zoning Board (which, in reality, is comprised of the County Council members, but in this forum they are wearing different “hats”) then makes a quasi-judicial determination whether the facts support a rezoning of the property.
       The 2012 Howard County Comprehensive Zoning process has begun. The Howard County Department of Planning and Zoning ("DPZ") will be making recommendations for both "Map Amendments" and "Zoning Regulation Amendments" ("ZRA") to the County Council. A “Map Amendment” is a zoning change that will result in the assignment of a different zone to a parcel or parcels of property during the zoning review process (for instance, a "residential use" property could be changed to a "commercial use" property). A ZRA is a change to the text of the Howard County Zoning Regulations (for instance, the minimum lot size for a residence could be changed to allow more houses in a development).
         In addition to recommendations being made by DPZ, property owners can submit applications for Map Amendments starting October 15 through December 14.  Property Owners may also submit proposals for ZRA's. All of these applications will be reviewed by DPZ, the Planning Board and the County Council. Any requested change must be in harmony with the new General Plan for the County, called PlanHoward2030, which is now in effect and sets the parameters for zoning preferences and sets forth the general land use goals for the County for the next 10 to 20 years.
       Whether or not a property owner wishes to submit an application for a map amendment or ZRA, all residents of the County can find out what changes are being requested and attend the public meetings and hearings to weigh in on proposed changes.   

October 11, 2012

HoCo Announces Comprehensive Rezoning!

Howard County’s Department of Planning and Zoning announced today that it will launch
 the countywide rezoning process and will be accepting proposals for zoning map and regulation
amendments between October 15 and December 14, 2012. For more information, see the announcement sent out by the county today (.pdf).

October 8, 2012

North Laurel Residential Development

From Proposed residential development in North Laurel gets mixed reviews

Maryland Corkage Law

By Dave Minogue (originally posted to Flickr as P4269130.JPG) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
By Dave Minogue (originally posted to Flickr as P4269130.JPG) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
This past April, Maryland passed a law approving corkage. Corkage is the practice of bringing your own wine to a restaurant that already has a wine menu. Corkage allows patrons to enjoy a wine that is not already stocked by the restaurant. This differs from some Baltimore restaurants BYOB practice, as it only applies to restaurants that already have a liquor license that allows them to serve wine.

According to the Washington Post, there are three conditions set forth by the corkage law:
  1. Underage or intoxicated persons should not be served, even their own wine;
  2. A wine already on the restaurant’s list may not be brought in;
  3. Restaurants must obtain a permit from their local liquor board.
Customers should note that restaurants do not have to allow corkage in their establishment. Additionally, restaurants that do allow corkage may charge a corkage fee to open a bottle for diners. The law does not stipulate a maximum or minimum for this fee. The Baltimore Sun asserts that corkage fees can range from $20 to $40 per bottle. Sales tax will apply to the corkage fee.

In Howard County, the Board of License Commissioners has issued a list of requirements pertaining to corkage practices. Included are the notations that patrons must order a meal and that bottles that are unfinished must be either poured out or recorked.

September 24, 2012

Domestic Partner Inheritance Tax Exemption for Real Property

I found this great FAQ guide (opens as a .pdf) from the Howard County Register of Wills, Byron E. MacFarlane, titled Domestic Partner Inheritance Tax Exemption for Real Property. This guide is very useful for anyone couple who is neither married nor in a civil union but owns a primary residence in joint tenancy.

September 10, 2012

Online Sales Tax

 I am frequently asked by small business owners what their responsibility is as to collecting sales tax from purchases generated by their websites. An online presence is different from a bricks and mortar storefront, and business owners may suddenly find themselves fulfilling orders for customers located across the country.

The short answer to this question is that if your business has a physical presence in a state, then you must collect local and state sales tax for that location. Examples of physical presences are an actual store, office, or warehouse. If your business does not have a physical presence in a state, then you do not have to collect sales tax for that state.

This rule is based on Quill v. North Dakota, a Supreme Court case that said mail-order businesses cannot be required to collect sales tax in a state unless the business has a physical presence there, as the burden on the sellers to comply with all state and local tax jurisdictions is too complex to manage and would strain interstate commerce. 504 US 298 (1992).

That being said, tax laws change all the time. If you are a small business owner looking to establish an online storefront, you should consult with your state's revenue agency to determine if you do have what is considered a physical presence. Additionally, the U.S. Small Business Administration is a great resource for answering questions about online payment services and sales.

September 7, 2012

Strict Liability for Pit Bulls - Part Two

On August 21, 2012, the Maryland Court of Appeals issued an Order relating to a Motion for Reconsideration (.pdf) filed in Tracey v. Solesky, the case decided earlier this year that held that strict liability exists for the owners of pit bulls and 'cross-bred pit bulls' and their landlords. Subsequently, Tracey filed a Motion for Reconsideration asking the Court to review their decision with regards to the inclusion of cross-bred pit bulls. The Court's order amends the earlier Opinion by deleting any reference to cross-breds, pit bull mix, or cross-bred pit bull mix.

The Humane Society has set up a helpline for Maryland families at 1-855-633-6471 (1-855-MDDOGS1).  Additionally, they have included on their website an information sheet (.pdf) for landlords and property owners. 

September 3, 2012

Happy Labor Day!

Our office will be closed Monday, September 3, 2012. We will reopen during normal business hours on Tuesday, September 4, 2012. We wish everyone a happy and safe Labor Day!

August 27, 2012

Symphony Woods On Hold?

From the Baltimore Sun: CA weighs putting Symphony Woods Project on Hold

Pet Trusts in Maryland

I grew up in a veritable zoo. My family included dogs, cats, parrots, lizards, frogs, turtles, fish, and hermit crabs. My parents spare no expense when it comes to their pets, and the care of the menagerie trumped everything else. My mother's mantra is "Animals can't care for themselves" - which is very true, especially if something happens to the pet owner. My mother has always maintained a list of people to call in the event that she and my father pass away. This list includes various breeders, family members, friends, aviaries and wildlife preserves in whom my mother has faith to take care of her furry, feathered and scaly friends. Recently, I have been giving a lot of thought to care for Bandit, the dog my husband and I adopted last fall, should something happen to us.

Fortunately, in 2009, Maryland enacted a 'pet trust' law to allow pet owners a formal mechanism to provide for their pets after the owner's incapacitation or death. The trust can be created for the benefit of an animal alive during the lifetime of the settlor. The trust terminates with the death of the animal (or the death of the last remaining animal if the trust provides for multiple pets). The trust may be enforced by a person appointed by the trust or by the court if the trust does not appoint someone. Further, a person with an interest in the welfare of the animal can petition the court to appoint a person to enforce the trust. In the trust, settlor's can provide express instruction for distribution of trust funds after the passing of their pet. If the funds of the trust are not used in full, the remaining funds can be distributed to the settlor or the settlor's successors. MD Estates & Trust Section 14-112.

Generally, a pet trust consists of a trustee and a caregiver. The caregiver provides the daily care for the pet, while the trustee oversees the handling of the trust to ensure the caregiver's compliance with the terms of the trust. Pet trusts allow the pet owner to have control over the care of their pet. Rather than rely on the goodwill of those tasked with caring for an orphaned pet, the trust can designate the standard of care for the pet. Trusts can direct veterinary care, diet, boarding, and the general standard of living to be maintained for the benefit of the pet. Additionally, the trust can provide compensation to the trustee and the caregiver.

August 20, 2012


Columbia/Ellicott City drops to No. 8 in 'Best Places to Live' rankings. via @explorehoward -- The Baltimore Sun (@baltimoresun)

July 4, 2012

Happy 4th of July!

Our office will be closed Wednesday, July 4, 2012. We will reopen during normal business hours on Thursday, July 5, 2012. We wish everyone a happy and safe Independence Day!

May 14, 2012

Strict Liability for Pit Bulls

On April 26, 2012, the Maryland Court of Appeals held in Tracey v. Solesky that anyone with the ability to limit the presence on their property of a pit bull or mixed-breed pit bull is subject to strict liability in the event that the dog bites a human. This is a drastic departure from the previous common law, which had placed the burden on the plaintiff to proof that a dog that bites a person had a history of aggression. The new ruling is unique in that it singles out a specific breed, a stance adopted by some local municipalities and counties across the country but never by a state supreme court. The dissent in the case pointed out a few flaws with the courts reasoning, including that the opinion did not specify what defines a pit bull (the term actually has been used to describe a number of breeds) or the degree to which any individual dog is a pit bull (regarding the percentage of breed).

The case has implications for dog owners, business owners, and residential and commercial landlords. Dog owners may find themselves subject to additional lease terms if they possess lease terms, or may find themselves unable to obtain a lease while owning a pit bull. Some animal advocates have postulated that the ruling will lead to record numbers of bully breed dogs being surrendered to animal shelters, which in turn will be unable to adopt out the dogs because of stigma associated with the breeds. Additionally, concern has been raised that dogs of suspect breed - as there are many breeds which are confused with pit bulls - may be unfairly judged and surrendered.

Tracey v. Solesky placed strict liability on landlords as well as pit bull owners. Landlords have the ability to restrict what breeds of dogs are present on their property; as such, the court has held that landlords have a burden to determine what breed of dog is on their property. Landlords may want to pursue stringent intake for pet owners, including training employees to recognize pit bulls. Additionally, landlords who choose to allow pit bulls on their property may want to request additional insurance from tenants.

One group that the opinion neglects to consider is the small business owner who holds a commercial lease. Veterinarians, dog groomers, pet food stores, and other businesses that cater to dog owners and welcome dogs onto their property could be held to strict liability for the presence of pit bulls on their property. Small business owners have less liberty to limit who enters their business, but could possibly be held responsible for attacks that occur during ingress and egress from their property. Negotiation of commercial leases for these businesses may include provisions regarding pit bull liability.

March 19, 2012

Gender Discrimination

On December 5, 2011, Howard County's Council passed a bill protecting individuals from discrimination based on gender identity. Similar legislation was passed in Baltimore County, as well as Baltimore City and Montgomery County. Baltimore Outloud reported that:

"The four council members who voted for the bill were Democrats Mary Kay Sigaty, Jen Terrasa, Calvin Ball (Council Chair) and Courtney Watson. Greg Fox, a Republican from Western Howard County, voted against the measure saying that the federal and state governments should pass a single law that clarifies the definition of public accommodations. The county law, as written, is vague on the definition."
Maryland Senate Bill 212 is designed to provide a comprehensive law protecting gender identity throughout Maryland. The bill prohibits discrimination in public accommodations, housing, and employment and by specified licensed or regulated persons. The bill is not without it's opponents, and at a recent committee hearing, Metro Weekly reported that number of legislators left the room.

Earlier this month, Metro Weekly wrote about the impetus for the Maryland bill:

"Some advocates cited the case of Chrissy Lee Polis, a transgender woman who was savagely beaten after using a restroom in a Baltimore-area McDonald's in Rosedale, Md. in April 2011, as evidence of hostility facing transgender women. Polis's attack was recorded on a cell phone camera and later posted on the Internet, where she was subjected to verbal attacks from online viewers, including the employee who posted the video."

March 12, 2012

Employment Law -- Discrimination and Administrative Appeals

Taylor Legal recently represented a client in an administrative appeal of a negative employment action imposed by the Howard County Public School System.  Through a careful review of the client’s personnel record and detailed meetings with the client to review the facts of the case, a considered, respectful argument was presented to the Superintendent’s designee explaining why the employment action was unfair – it was retaliatory and a potential violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).  The action against the employee was rescinded.

Employment discrimination cases can be difficult to argue and even more difficult to win.  The facts need to support that the employer’s motivation was legally improper.  Unfortunately, employers often can articulate non-discriminatory reasons for a negative employment action (poor review, suspension, termination, or other discipline), so it can be complicated to parse out and prove an illegal motivation.  However, following in-depth discussion and review with a client, an attorney can hopefully get to the heart of the matter and establish a narrative that shows that an employer was acting in a harassing, retaliatory, and/or discriminatory manner.

The legal requirements for employment cases cannot be generalized because they depend in large part on the particular contractual rights of the employee.  Some employer behaviors, however, are simply not permitted, for example racial, gender or age discrimination or violations of the ADA.  When claiming discrimination, a current or former employee typically has the burden of proof and, as an initial matter, must make a basic showing that there is reason to believe that an illegal act has occurred.  For example, the employee may be a member of a racial minority and was terminated or may be over the age of 50 and was not hired for a job he or she was qualified for.  The employer can counter the employee's claims by establishing that the employer had a non-discriminatory reason for making the contested employment decision – the terminated employee was incompetent; the non-hired applicant was competing against individuals with more impressive credentials.  The employee then has the opportunity to show that the employer’s defense is pretextual, a rouse to cover a truly illegal motive – the terminated employee was consistently evaluated as superior; the person hired instead of the older applicant did not have more extensive credentials.

When dealing with harassment or retaliation, it may be critical to show a pattern of behavior or a suspect motive to undermine any argument that an employer may make about the validity of a negative action.

All cases are very fact-specific and very much depend on a detailed development of events and behaviors.

Typically, when a government agency is the employer, after an initial review by the supervisor of the employee or prospective employee, the next step is an appeal to an agency representative, for example the University President or the COO of a school system.  If that appeal is unsuccessful, there may be additional levels within the agency to appeal to or an outside appeal to the State Office of Administrative Hearings or the Circuit Court may be appropriate.  It depends on the specifics of the employer's contract and the agency's rules and regulations.  EEOC or local watchdog agency involvement (like the Howard County Office for Human Rights) are also possible, sometimes necessary steps.  When feasible, attorney assistance at the earliest stage is preferable, to ensure that no deadlines are missed and that the fullest record is created for appeal.

March 7, 2012

U.S. House passes bill on Eminent Domain

In 2005, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Kelo v. City of New London that local government could take over private property of several homeowners for the purpose of converting the property commercial use. The case was unique in that eminent domain had traditionally been used for public works projects - such as highways or public facilities. The Court held that "The city’s determination that the area at issue was sufficiently distressed to justify a program of economic rejuvenation is entitled to deference"; essentially, local governments were best suited to determine what public use was locally under the takings clause of the Fifth Amendment. Kelo drew much backfire, and in response many state governments enacted laws limiting eminent domains takings to very specific uses.

On February 28, 2012, the US House of Representatives passed a bill seeking to limit the Kelo ruling. The bill, H.R. 1433 (known as the Private Property Rights Protection Act) is co-sponsored by James Sensenbrenner, R-Wisconsin, and Maxine Waters, D-California. According to the Washington Post, the
"legislation would withhold for two years all federal development aid to states or locales that take private property for economic development. It also bars the federal government from using eminent domain for economic development purposes and gives private property owners the right to take legal action if provisions of the legislation are violated."
The Private Property Rights Protection Act was opposed by John Conyers, D-Michigan, who was concerned that the bill exempted the Keystone XL pipeline from the eminent domain restrictions. The Keystone XL pipeline is a project by a Canadian company which proposes to build a gas pipeline from Canada to Texas. Additionally, Rep. Conyers noted that over 40 states have already enacted legislation in response to Kelo.

It is interesting to note that the property in question in Kelo was taken initially for Pfizer to develop a new location. In 2009, Pfizer abandoned the plans. For more information, see this CBS news article from November, 2009.

February 21, 2012

Howard County 3rd Richest

MSN Money today posted their list of the 15 richest counties in the United States. Howard County, MD came in third, with an average median household income of $101,771, and an average owner-occupied home price of $456,200. Four other Maryland counties made the list. See the complete list here.

February 17, 2012

Presidents Day

Our office will be closed Monday, February 20, 2012 for Presidents Day. We will reopen during normal business hours on Tuesday, February 21, 2012.

February 9, 2012

hocoblogs Party

hocoblogs is having a party on Monday, February 13, 2012 from 6-8 pm at The Corner Stable, in Kings Contrivance, to celebrate social media week. Attendees can register here.

January 9, 2012

Andrea LeWinter was sworn in this morning as a member of the Bar of the United States Supreme Court. Katherine Taylor, already a member of the Supreme Court Bar, joined Andrea and 9 other members of the Howard County Chapter of the Women's Bar Association of Maryland for the swearing in at the Supreme Court in DC. All nine Supreme Court Justices presided at the swearing in. The Supreme Court then... heard three cases - the Texas election map redistricting case; the case against the EPA regarding the EPA's order to two homeowners to comply with the Clean Water Act; and a case regarding the scope of review of an appeal of a decision of the Patent and Trademarks office denying a patent application. It was thrilling to watch so many brilliant minds differ in public about matters important to our lives.