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Posts in Virginia 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.

On February 25th, the Arlington County Board unanimously approved Penzance’s 1555 Wilson Boulevard 4.1 Site Plan project.  The applicant, represented by Matt Roberts, proposed to rezone the properties and submitted a 4.1 Site Plan application to permit approximately 1.2 million square feet of mixed-use development in the West Rosslyn area.  The project, approved at 10 FAR, will deliver roughly 30,000 square feet of retail space and 892 units, including 105 condominium units, in two buildings spanning the site. The project will also deliver vital community benefits called for in the West Rosslyn Area Plan, including a new Fire Station No. 10 in the project’s East Building, an extension of North Pierce Street through the site, and a redeveloped Rosslyn Highlands Park.  For additional information, you can read the project’s staff report here.

The Residential Parking Working Group was tasked by Arlington’s County Manager with recommending updates to the current parking policy for Site Plan and Mixed Use Development use permit projects in Arlington’s Rosslyn-Ballston and Jefferson Davis Metro corridors (the “Study Area”). As many members of our community can agree, providing the appropriate amount of parking for a new residential building can be a delicate balance. 

Currently, when a project is under review by the Board for site plan or use permit approval, the Board can agree to depart from the parking requirements within the zoning ordinance.  The goal of this working group, which is expected to wrap up its efforts in the coming month, is to deliver a recommended methodology and implementation plan to guide County Development Review staff in evaluating and approving multifamily residential site plan developments within the Study Area – the idea being that developers and community members alike could benefit from more certainty in the approval process.

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.

You arrive home that evening from work and sort through the mail, like you normally do. Bills, ads and even a birthday card from your Great Aunt Doris. The usual. At the bottom of the pile, though, is a letter from your local Zoning Office. That seems odd. You open it up to find the words “NOTICE OF ZONING VIOLATION” scrolled across the top of the letter. You read on to find the Zoning Administrator has determined your property is in violation of the local zoning ordinance, and that you have 10 days to correct the problem, or you will start to incur fines until you do. What now?

A fairly new policy change from Dominion Power could mean delays in the process of receiving final site plan approval, which could delay the construction process. Virginia Dominion Power has notified local jurisdictions of a change in policy regarding where underground vaults must be placed for new developments. Vaults must now be placed on property owned by the development and include an easement granting access to the vault.

As a result, site plans with vaults on public property, such as under a sidewalk or street, may be flagged during the approval process. The reasoning behind the change is that Dominion Power wants to be granted an easement on the property from the developer to secure access to the vault, which they cannot do on public property because the developer does not own it.

Image courtesy of Dudley Carr

Fairfax County is proposing amendments to the Planned Residential Mixed-Use (PRM) and Planned Development Commercial (PDC) zoning districts that would have a dramatic effect on future projects. Responding to comprehensive planning guidance for increased density and mixed-use projects in Transit Station Areas, Commercial Revitalization Areas and Commercial Revitalization Districts, the proposed changes would allow projects to achieve greater densities and facilitate walkable, urban projects.

Chief among the proposed changes is increasing the allowed density in the PRM and PDC districts. If the Board of Supervisors adopts the changes, projects within Transit Station Areas and Commercial Revitalization Areas or Districts could receive up to 5.0 FAR at the Board’s discretion. Notably, however, the Board could limit projects to the densities stated in the comprehensive planning guidance for a particular site or area. Related changes include eliminating requirements for increased open-space and unique design features and adding provisions specifically permitting parking reduction requests.

These amendments are proposed for public hearings in November and December of 2015.

Image courtesy of La Citta Vita

Last year, we wrote about the difficult standards in Virginia for obtaining a zoning variance, particularly in light of the recent case Martin v. City of Alexandria, in which the Supreme Court held strictly that all statutory requirements must be met before a variance may be granted. Now, those requirements are about to change. Effective July 1, 2015, recent legislation from the General Assembly will loosen the statutory standards for obtaining a variance in the Commonwealth.