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  • Posts by Matthew Roberts
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    Matthew Roberts is a shareholder at Bean, Kinney & Korman. His practice focuses on land use and zoning, administrative and municipal law, public utilities, and real estate transactions.

    Matt represents and advises clients in land ...

Arlington’s County Board is set to expand the number of properties eligible for its Technology Zone tax incentive program.  On December 13, the County Board will consider adding properties zoned Commercial/Mixed Use or Industrial to the list of qualifying properties.  Currently, only properties located within one of the County’s four Technology Zones qualify for the incentive program.  The current Technology Zones include commercially or industrially zoned properties in the Rosslyn-Ballston Corridor, the Jefferson-Davis Corridor, Shirlington and Columbia Pike Corridor, as more fully described in Appendix A to Chapter 66 of the Arlington County Code.

The Washington, D.C. metropolitan area has no shortage of airplanes flying over the region. There is also no shortage of developers and landowners who want to create the region’s landmark buildings and skyscrapers which may fall within flight paths. These developers would rightfully be concerned that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is proposing a change to its One Engine Inoperative (OEI) policy that could affect building height limits. The current proposal would allow the FAA to work with airport owners to define an OEI departure area from the runway.

As of July 1, 2014, Virginia landowners will have a new tool to use in the zoning game.  On April 6, 2014, Governor McAuliffe signed SB 578 into law.  The bill provides a damages remedy for applicants seeking zoning or subdivision approvals and who are faced with accepting the imposition of unconstitutional conditions as the price for approval.  The new law reflects recent cases in the United States Supreme Court, but also affirms a long standing rule against unconstitutional conditions set by the Virginia Supreme Court in the 1970s and 1980s.

Over the past year and a half, Arlington County has been working to update the Rosslyn Sector Plan, which is the guiding planning document for Arlington, Virginia’s downtown neighborhood of Rosslyn. This would be the first major update to the Rosslyn Sector Plan since 1992, although small area updates were approved by the Arlington County Board in 1999, 2003 and 2008.

Step one of the update required the formation and approval of guiding principles and recommendations for future planning efforts in Rosslyn. On April 12, 2014, the county board approved the Rosslyn Plan Framework

March 12, 2014
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More than one landowner has been disappointed to find out they cannot develop their property how they would like. This disappointment can be compounded if the landowner bought a property based on its zoning potential, but the locality then rezoned the property to remove the use, essentially pulling the rug out from under them. Luckily, if the right circumstances exist, there are rules protecting landowners’ development expectations. This article will focus on the first element of those rules - obtaining a significant, affirmative governmental act.

During the course of rezoning a property, it is common for landowners to offer incentives to a locality to grant the rezoning. Such incentives often take the form of proffers, which are voluntary conditions the landowner agrees to follow as part of obtaining the rezoning. A landowner might proffer that they will construct improvements, such as a local road or a park. Just as commonly, a landowner could proffer cash in lieu of constructing the improvement.

Given this back and forth, the General Assembly has enacted laws that serve as ground rules for the timing and types of proffers a locality can accept. One such rule enacted in 2011, is that, in a residential rezoning, a locality may only collect or accept cash proffers after the locality completes a final inspection and before it issues a certificate of occupancy.

Although it is a familiar term in the zoning lexicon, the variance is one of the least understood devices in the zoning toolbox. Known to dirt lawyers as the “escape hatch,” the variance gives relief to property owners from zoning requirements where the strict application of the zoning ordinance would be unconstitutional as to a particular property, often because of a unique characteristic of the site.

While simple in theory, getting to the “escape hatch” has proved more elusive in actual practice. In Virginia, local boards of zoning appeals (BZA) have authority to grant variances, subject to the statutory standards in Virginia code section 15.2-2309.

December 26, 2013
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Pop quiz: You want to purchase an undeveloped lot with the hopes of building your home on it.  You hire a title company to perform the title work, which appears to come back clean.  You are told your lot used to be part of a bigger parcel, but it was subdivided a few years ago, and your neighbors own the other lot.  You even take a look at the subdivision plat to see where the boundaries are located.  In the end, you buy the property and receive a deed with a metes and bounds description of the property’s boundaries.  Then you apply for the permits to build your home.  However, the local zoning office says you cannot build on the lot, because the locality never approved that pesky subdivision plat.  Confused by this revelation, you wonder what do you own and what can you do with it?

On October 31, 2013, the Virginia Supreme Court decided Old Dominion Boat Club v. Alexandria City Council, et al.  The case involved ongoing litigation between the Old Dominion Boat Club (ODBC), the City of Alexandria, and the owner of a restaurant along Union Street in Alexandria, regarding the continuing existence of a private easement in a public alley. 

Arlnow.com recently reported that the Arlington Ridge Civic Association (ARCA) has requested the Arlington County Board “freeze” all zoning action within the Arlington Ridge neighborhood until the impact of current development on the neighborhood can be assessed.  This request came as part of ARCA updating its Neighborhood Conservation Plan, a non-binding document that creates recommendations for county staff to consider during zoning permit requests.  ARCA appears to be making the request because of recent growth in their neighborhood, due in part to the fact the neighborhood sits adjacent to I-395, South Glebe Road, and is near the Pentagon City mall.