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This blog focuses on real estate, land use and construction-related topics affecting Virginia and the Washington, D.C. metro area. With topics ranging from contract drafting and negotiation to local and regional land use project updates, the attorneys at Bean, Kinney & Korman provide timely insight and commentary on the issues affecting owners, builders, developers, contractors, subcontractors and other players in the industry. If you are interested in having us cover a specific topic, please let us know.

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Posts in Virginia Land Use/Zoning.

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.

Unanimous Approval for Self-Storage Facility in Prince William County

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.

Underground Vaults in Virginia

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 Proposes Updates to the Zoning Ordinance

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

Relaxed Variance Standards in Virginia Soon to Go Into Effect

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.

BlueprintRecently, the Arlington County subcommittee for NAIOP met with Bob Duffy and members of the County staff to discuss the County’s February 9, 2015 Memo regarding policies related to GFA calculation for site plan projects in Arlington County.

The Arlington Department of Community Planning, Housing and Development recently issued a memo outlining how GFA is to be calculated in development site plan projects and what exclusions may apply. Mr. Duffy, Director of Planning, explained the purpose of the Memo was to offer the development community greater certainty and clarity regarding the County policies with respect to calculation of GFA.

Court houseRecently, the Virginia Supreme Court clarified how property owners appealing adverse zoning determinations must style their case and who must be named as a party to such a proceeding.

In Frace v. Johnson, the Virginia Supreme Court held that the landowner had not properly appealed an adverse zoning determination to the Fairfax Circuit Court where she failed to name the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors as a party in the petition and did not serve the petition on the Board. Instead, following Virginia Code § 15.2-2314, she styled her petition as required by the statute, then served a copy of her petition on the Chair of the Board of Zoning Appeals within the 30-day limitation. The Fairfax County Zoning Administrator moved to dismiss the petition, because it did not name the Board of Supervisors as a party to the petition within the 30-day limitation.

Rainbow over Arlington, VirginiaThe Arlington County Board recently approved, with a few exceptions, the proposed amendments to the Arlington County Zoning Ordinance. The amendments to Articles 1-18 and Appendices A and B, to incorporate a use classification system; update use tables and definitions; update use standards, including new standards for short term uses and accessory uses; allow off-site parking for day care uses; allow by-right interior repairs and alterations to nonconforming buildings and structures in R-districts; and incorporate other minor updates throughout the Ordinance to codify administrative practices, increase clarity and consistency and correct errors, were unanimously approved.

BlueprintA new memorandum issued by Arlington County’s Director of the Department of Community Planning, Housing and Development, Bob Brosnan, is proposing to change which areas in a building developers can expect to exclude from density calculations in a 4.1 Site Plan application.

Contentious land use approvals often result in lawsuits, which, even when unsuccessful, can lead to costly delays for developers. In the recent case styled In Re: November 20, 2013 Decision of the Board of Zoning Appeals of Fairfax County, the Fairfax County Circuit Court threw out one such legal challenge by homeowners to a controversial Zoning Administrator determination that the Board of Supervisors could approve a proposed storage facility by The Girl Scout Counsel of the Nation’s Capital (“GSC”) in conjunction with its special exception application to increase the occupancy of Camp Crowell in Oakton, Virginia. On appeal by nearby homeowners, the Board of Zoning Appeals reversed the Zoning Administrator. However, the circuit court then held that the BZA decision was void because the homeowners lacked standing to appeal the Zoning Administrator’s determination in the first place.