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Have you heard the DC Zoning Commission is looking into adopting a new set of GAR requirements?  No, we're not talking about the kind of fish that eats every other kind of fish it can fit in its mouth, we're talking about Green Area Ratio ("GAR") requirements.  According to the report prepared by DC zoning staff, the GAR concept is not a new concept, but is a Low Impact Development best management practices tool used in major cities in Europe such as Berlin and Malmo.

Although obviously based upon sound legal principles, it was still surprising to find out that the Supreme Court held in Ligon v. County of Goochland that whistleblower protections for county employees against retaliatory firings under the Virginia Fraud Against Taxpayers Act ("VFATA") were barred by the doctrine of sovereign immunity.  As many of our readers know, the doctrine of sovereign immunity gives immunity to the Commonwealth, as well as localities as political subdivisions of the Commonwealth, from liability for damages and from suits to restrain governmental action or to compel such actions (such as tort liability for actions or omissions of a county's agents and employees).  However, while the VFATA was likely intended to create protection for the Commonwealth's employees from retaliatory discharge for reporting corruption and fraudulent behavior, the Supreme Court found that the plain language of the statute failed to explicitly include retaliatory discharge necessary for it to waive its sovereign immunity.  So basically, a corrupt county employee can fire a whistleblower, and the whistleblower can't sue the county to get his job back or for damages.

October 1, 2010
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After just a brief stay as the County Manager of Arlington County, Michael Brown has left the position, and Barbara Donnellan, who was acting County Manager prior to Michael Brown being hired, has now been appointed as the new permanent County Manager of Arlington County.

No reason for the change-up has yet been given, except that former County Manager Brown left for personal reasons.

In an attempt to get out of having to comply with a proffer, a developer has tried, and failed, to claim that a proffer could not be amended at a public hearing without having to resubmit the amended in proffer in writing and to conduct a subsequent public hearing.  The facts in Arogas, Inc., Et Al. v. Frederick County Board of Zoning Appeals, Et Al., were pretty straightforward.  Prior to a public hearing for a rezoning, a property owner submitted a written proffer to the Frederick County Board of Supervisors, which the property owners thereafter orally agreed to modify at the public hearing, and then about a week after the hearing the property owners signed a written amended proffer pursuant to their oral agreement at the hearing.  The amended proffer limited the underlying by-right permitted uses of the property.

August 4, 2010
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With all the buzz about Congressional ethics investigations and the kinks being worked out of the reformed Virginia General Assembly and Senate ethics rules, I thought it might be an appropriate time to reflect on the rules that govern our local officials here in Virginia.  On this side of the river, conflicts of interests, prohibited conduct and disclosure requirements for local officials are set forth in the State and Local Government Conflict of Interests Act.

TaxLast week, Montgomery County, Maryland passed what has been described as the nation's first local carbon tax.  The tax imposes $5 per ton on any entity that emits more than 1 million tons of carbon dioxide in a single year.  Interestingly, the tax only applies to Mirant Corporation which owns the Dickerson Generating Plant in Montgomery County.  Mirant will reportedly challenge the tax in court.  The county also passed an 85% increase on its energy use tax.

Back on April 14th I blogged about the creation and anticipated operation of the Virginia Defective Drywall Correction and Restoration Assistance Fund (the "DDCRAF") via two new provisions to the Code of Virginia patroned by Delegate Oder this session.  If you read that posting you'll recall that the purpose of the DDCRAF is to create a perpetual, non-reverting fund to facilitate the remediation of property impacted by the use of "Defective Drywall" in residential construction, and I promised to find out whether funding was lined up for the DDCRAF yet.  Delegate Oder's office has been very responsive and helpful in explaining how they envision funding to come through for the DDCRAF.

We've got two new provisions to the Code of Virginia as of this last legislative session which create a perpetual, non-reverting fund to facilitate the remediation of property impacted by the use of "Defective Drywall" in residential construction.  This fund will be administered by the Virginia Resources Authority and the Department of Housing and Community Development ("DHCD"). 

A recently completed study by Arlington's Retail Task Force outlined some interesting conclusions for ground floor retail, suggesting something contrary to the status quo of conventional urban planning thought .  Traditionally, in Arlington County, as well as other urban jurisdictions, it has been a moot argument that good urban planning require ground floor space to be used almost solely for retail, or other similar uses that are thought to improve the pedestrian experience and serve the immediate vicinity's every-day needs.  Quite frankly, ground floor retail is simply expected by jurisdictions for almost all urban projects.

With well over two thousand bills filed for this session, I was curious to see what our local urban delegates and senators have chief-patroned this year.  So here's what they're up to:

Delegate Brink has patroned HB 1260, which proposes that the Uniform Statewide Building Code should also apply to buildings or structures built on state-owned property and that the Department of General Services would act as the building official for all such buildings.  He has also patroned HB 1314 which contemplates providing financial incentives equal to twenty percent of delinquent taxes collected by tax collectors, chargeable to the taxpayer in addition to the amount of the delinquent taxes.