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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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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.

November 4, 2016
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Effectively immediately, The Federal Housing Administration (FHA) has implemented new owner-occupancy rules regarding existing condominium developments.  The owner-occupancy requirement for most projects has been lowered from 50% to 35%.  The lower percentage only applies, however, if certain requirements are met: applications must be submitted under the HUD Review and Approval Process option, owners need to provide documentation of an account showing at least 20% of the budget is allocated for replacement reserves for capital expenditures and deferred maintenance, and HOA fees cannot be in arrears for more than 10% of the units. 

The current 30% owner-occupancy requirement for proposed projects, projects currently under construction, and existing projects less than one year old will remain in effect. 

For more information, you can view the FHA’s rule here.

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 October 20, 2015, the County Board of Arlington County unanimously approved The Shooshan Company’s 4.1 Site Plan Special Exception application for Clarendon West, a mixed-use residential and retail project. Represented by Jonathan C. Kinney and Matthew G. Roberts, the project introduces over 580,000 square feet of new development at the current site of the Red Top Cab company in Arlington County’s Clarendon neighborhood. With this approval, The Shooshan Company will build up to 580 multi-family residential units and approximately 3,500 square feet of retail space in three separate buildings. The multi-phase project includes substantial public benefits, including multiple transportation and traffic improvements along 13th Street North and Washington Boulevard, the delivery of land for a public park envisioned by the Clarendon Sector Plan and on-site affordable housing, among others.

Further details about the approval can be found on Arlington County’s website.

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

A new ruling by the National Labor Relations Board could impact the relationship between developers, construction companies and their workers.

In a landmark decision on Thursday, the National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB” or “Board”), by a 3-2 vote, determined that its long-standing “joint-employment jurisprudence” had grown “increasingly out of step with changing economic circumstances, particularly the recent dramatic growth in contingent employment relationships, i.e., shift work, contract workers, and temporary employee relationships[,]” across the U.S.