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Pumphrey Attorney: Rockville Should Honor Judge’s Ruling

Legal battle spurred by funeral home’s plans for a parking lot in the West End.

FILE | Robert A. Pumphrey Funeral Home. Credit: SEAN SEDAM
FILE | Robert A. Pumphrey Funeral Home. Credit: SEAN SEDAM

Robert A. Pumphrey Funeral Home has asked Rockville to honor a judge’s ruling that would clear the way for Pumphrey to build a parking lot adjacent to the business in the city’s West End.

The ruling reverses a city Planning Commission decision that denied Pumphrey’s request to consolidate two plots of land, totaling about 45,000 square feet, in order to build the lot.

In a letter to the city Wednesday, Pumphrey’s attorney Soo Lee Cho requested that the city honor the ruling. The letter is the latest volley in a controversy spurred by a May 2012 City Council decision that blocked the funeral home from building the lot in a vacant field owned by the nearly 160-year-old business.

On April 29, a Montgomery County Circuit Court judge ruled that the city must reinstate a measure permitting the funeral home to build the parking lot. The ruling also upended the Planning Commission’s denial of the funeral home’s request to merge its two plots.

The City of Rockville filed an appeal June 6.

City officials have declined to comment on the matter, stating that it is an ongoing legal proceeding.

Funeral home owner William Pumphrey said he felt “vindicated” by the judge’s ruling—a sentiment reflected in a written statement by Cho:

“It is important to note that the Court ruled across the board that the City’s action was arbitrary and capricious and completely illegal. This ruling is a clearly defined, point-by-point legal vindication of Pumphrey’s case. Notably, the Court did not remand this matter back to the City, meaning that the effect of the Court’s Order is an immediate reinstatement of the original law, giving us a green light to move forward with the parking lot. Given the well-reasoned and sweeping Opinion of the Court, which addressed every point of law in this matter very specifically, we question why the City would continue to use taxpayer dollars to pursue an appeal.”

Pumphrey Funeral Home has been at its current location since 1854, predating city laws that prohibited funeral homes from being built in residential areas.

The City Council’s 2012 decision blocking the lot reversed a decision by the previous council and sparked fierce debate. Some residents said a parking lot didn't belong in Rockville’s historic West End. Others argued that Pumphrey was being treated unfairly.

Rockville libertarian June 19, 2013 at 09:28 PM
Pumphrey Funeral Home has been at its current location since 1854. Enough said. The City needs to move on with helping business grow, stop this nonsense.
Mary Earley June 20, 2013 at 10:35 AM
I understand wanting to protect the harmony of the historic West End, but really, with careful landscaping, a parking lot can be unobtrusive.
Dick June 20, 2013 at 01:23 PM
The parking lot will alleviate the street parking problem around the funeral home. If constructed properly, with appropriate landscaping, it shouldn't be an eyesore. The City needs to let this issue go. There are many who believe Rockville is anti-business no matter what they say.
Peter Mork June 21, 2013 at 08:54 AM
Pumphrey is not alone in wondering "why the City would continue to use taxpayer dollars to pursue an appeal."
MoCoRes June 27, 2013 at 11:12 PM
It's ridiculous that the issue has gotten this far. The city voted to allow the parking lot and then voted to reverse that decision after the proponents of the earlier measure were no longer in office. Behavior like that sends the wrong message to businesses and people who want to move here.

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