Silver Spring music venue lawsuit against state, county officials to be dismissed
Matter isn't for courts to decide, judge rules
A judge has decided to dismiss a competitor's lawsuit to stop tax money from going to build a Live Nation-operated music club in Silver Spring, according to court documents yet to be officially filed.
It's My Party Inc. a Bethesda-based firm, also known as IMP Inc., that operates the 9:30 Club in Washington, D.C., Ram's Head Live in Baltimore and Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia sued state and county officials last year, as the estimated cost of renovating an abandoned department store to convert it into a venue that could accommodate 2,000 concert-goers rose from $8 million to $11.2 million.
IMP argued that $4 million in taxpayer money, which the county sought and the legislature and governor pledged to the Fillmore music club project in Silver Spring, did not meet criteria set by state lawmakers.
The lawsuit was filed in Anne Arundel County.
According to an undated opinion and order received by The Gazette, Judge Steven I. Platt recently determined the doctrine of separation of powers precludes the court from reviewing or interfering with the lawmakers' decision.
Platt rejected IMP's argument that it has standing to sue as a competitor because of the advantage that Live Nation might gain as a result of the deal.
"[E]conomic competition is not in this state a predicate upon which a suit may be maintained against the governmental Defendants in this case, who by their actions may be aiding or even enabling that competition," Platt wrote, citing a case decided in 1939.
The judge, however, said that IMP could sue as a taxpayer.
County Attorney Marc Hansen said Monday that he had received an undocketed copy of the opinion but had not read it fully, and he declined to comment.
The opinion also said that the legislature's decision to grant the $4 million was within its authority and that by not specifying criteria that it would use to release the money, the legislature left it to its own discretion.
Because the criteria were discretionary, IMP's contention that appropriations for the project were illegal or unauthorized do not hold up, Platt reasoned.
Further, the opinion said that the plaintiff did not prove that taxpayers would pay more because of the appropriation. It also said that County Executive Isiah Leggett's (D) decision to move money from other projects to cover the costs was within his authority.
IMP spokeswoman Audrey Schaefer said that required cost estimates for the project still have not been submitted. She said IMP has made no decision on whether to ask the judge to reconsider.