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.