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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.

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.

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.

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

A multiyear land use battle over the future of the EnviroSolutions, Inc. (ESI) landfill in Lorton, Virginia is set to culminate in the Fairfax Board of Supervisors’ consideration of the proposed extended operation of the landfill until 2040. In May 2013, ESI submitted an application for a special exception amendment, along with other related land use requests, to the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. In this application, ESI set forth its proposals for the future operation of the landfill site. ESI’s application has created controversy in the Lorton community as residential, business and public advocacy groups have voiced strong and differing opinions as to the best course of action at the landfill site.

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.