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Posts in Land Use/Zoning.

The Virginia General Assembly passed hundreds of bills signed into law by Governor McAuliffe during the 2017 legislative session, and all of these bills went into effect on Saturday, July 1st. Many of these laws touch on real estate, local government, and economic development-related issues, including a law extending the expiration date of certain land use approvals - site plans and special exceptions, for example - a law authorizing short term lodging (AirBNB), a law restructuring the Economic Development Authority, and a law establishing the Metro Safety Commission. Notably, numerous attempts to revise the 2016 proffer law all failed, although the General Assembly is likely to reignite the proffer fight again in the coming sessions. For more information on other high profile bills that went into effect on July 1st, click here.

Virginia General Assembly Extends Life of Zoning Approvals

The General Assembly has once again extended the life of various zoning approvals in Virginia.  HB 1697, introduced by Delegate Danny Marshall (R-Danville), extends approval of various zoning permits and plans to July 1, 2020 for plans approved prior to January 1, 2017. All land use plans that are valid and outstanding as of January 1, 2017—including preliminary site plans, final site plans, subdivision plans, rezonings, special use and conditional use plans, and special exceptions—will be subject to the new three-year extension.

The bill initially included a five-year extension, but the Senate amended the bill to include the three-year extension after local governments expressed their opposition to the original bill. The underlying code section, Virginia Code sec. 15.2-2209.1 was originally passed in 2009 in response to the housing crisis, and it included a five-year extension from 2009 to 2014. The statute was amended by the General Assembly in 2011 and 2012. Governor McAuliffe has until March 27th to take action on HB 1697.  It is expected that Governor McAuliffe will sign the legislation into law. You can find the extension legislation here.

The Arlington County Board held a work session this week with representatives from the Planning Division and Planning Commission to discuss projects and priorities for the coming year. This work session provided an opportunity for County Board members to interact with the planning department and ask questions about future planning projects and initiatives.

In the upcoming year, the County plans to complete four General Land Use Plan (“GLUP”) studies and a five-year review of the Comprehensive Plan. The County also plans to complete the Four Mile Run Valley Planning Program and the Courthouse Square Plan Addendum Implementation. The Planning Division will also be supporting the Housing Division with completing reports and recommendations for Market-Rate Affordable Units (“MARKs”) and Affordable Dwelling Units (“ADUs.”) It was also discussed that the Lee Highway Planning Initiative will be a major focus for the Planning Division in the coming years. Finally, it is expected that changes will be made to the County’s sign regulations to comply with recent case law decisions.

On December 8, 2015, the Prince William County Board of County Supervisors unanimously approved Mini Price Storage's proffer amendment and special use permit applications to bring the company's first self-storage facility to the County.  Represented by Mark Viani and Matt Roberts, the applications removed a prohibition on self-storage uses at the property, allowing Mini Price to build over 151,000 square feet of self-storage use near Prince William Parkway and Telegraph Road.  The applications, which received the support of the Lake Ridge Occoquan Coles Civic Association’s Planning, Environment, Land-Use, and Transportation Committee and unanimous approval by the Planning Commission, also addressed the property's environmental features.  With these approvals, Mini Price will introduce a state of the art self-storage facility to serve the area.  For more information, you can review the project's staff report.

On June 18, 2015, the United States Supreme Court ruled in Reed v. Town of Gilbert that an Arizona town’s sign ordinance unconstitutionally regulated the content of speech posted on signs within the town. Like so many modern localities, the Town of Gilbert had adopted a sign ordinance regulating signage within the town, including the total number of certain signs that could be displayed, their size and how long such signs could be displayed. The town based these restrictions upon the type of sign to be displayed and created categories of signs subject to different regulations. In particular, the town created different regulations for ideological signs, political signs and temporary signs. The town based these differences in its police power considerations for the town’s aesthetics and traffic safety, and claimed it did not disagree with any particular message on a given sign. Under these sign regulations, the town cited the Good News Community Church on several occasions for violating the temporary sign regulations, because the church had not removed them in time and failed to include all the information required on a temporary sign. The church, in response, sued the town, claiming the ordinance was an unconstitutional content-based restriction of its freedom of speech.

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.

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?

U.S. Supreme CourtToday, the U.S. Supreme Court (“SCOTUS”) issued its opinion in Koontz v. St. Johns River Water Management District, No. 11-1447, slip op., 570 U.S. ___ (2013).  Koontz, a victory for the property owner, is an important property rights case affecting the government’s ability to impose monetary conditions on the approval of land use permits. 

I had a great time last Thursday at another one of Rutherfoord’s Trends in Building Green seminars. We got to hear from Tommy Russo from Akridge, Eric Oliver from EMO Energy Solutions, Bobby Christian from Tangible, and Tom Mawson, the Executive Director for the U.S. Green Building Council’s National Capital Region Chapter. 

I made a presentation outlining our region’s local jurisdictional green building trends, policies and incentives for private commercial development from a zoning, planning and land-use perspective. Here’s the slide show from the presentation. There was quite a bit more explanation beyond what is outlined in the slides, including bonding and other security requirements for incentives and a number of new initiatives a number of localities are currently pursuing. If anyone has any questions about what any of these localities (Arlington County, City of Alexandria, Fairfax County, Loudoun County, Prince William County, Montgomery County, Prince George's County and Washington, D.C.) are doing, please feel free to post a question and I can respond in more detail.