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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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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

On Saturday, July 18, the County Board approved the Retail Action Plan by a vote of 4 to 1, with direction to further amend some facets of the proposed plan. Board Member Libby Garvey voted against the Plan.

During a rather extensive discussion which focused a great deal on the feedback that Board Members and Staff received calling for more flexibility within the Plan, the Board ultimately decided to broaden the “red” category to permit more uses. Many critics of the Plan believed the red category was too restrictive. The use category of Services and Repairs will now also be permitted within the red category.

The Board also voted to incorporate the Process document released by AED within the Plan itself to help aid Developers and the Board in applying the Plan to future and existing site plans. This document, originally requested by Chairwoman Hynes at one of the working sessions, was designed to aid the analysis of a site plan when there were other conflicting policy documents. In essence, the Process document helps to demonstrate when the retail action plan may stand up to or yield to existing policy documents like sector plans and the like.

The Arlington Economic Development staff will be updating the Plan to incorporate the latest revisions made by the Board. There was no timeline specified as to when that may be final, however, the Plan has been approved.

In addition to approval, the Board decided a periodic review of the plan was needed, as retail trends change quickly. With this end in mind, they requested that the Plan be reviewed on a periodic, ongoing basis.

For our previous coverage of the Retail Action Plan, take a look at our original postupdate one and update two.

Original image courtesy of Brett VA – changes made

The debate about the new Retail Action Plan ("The Plan") continued earlier this month as the Board held another work session to discuss the progress on ongoing efforts to update the Plan.

Much of the discussion focused on the so called "red streets" within the Plan. These streets are designated for pure retail uses, including: retail sales, food and drink establishments and entertainment establishments exclusively. Further, under the new plan the red streets would require certain design standards be met both internally and externally to the first floor of any building constructed or redeveloped on a red street in order to permit a retail use.

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.

On April 22, 2015, Jill Griffin of Arlington Economic Development shared with NAIOP the progress being made on the update to the Arlington County Retail Plan (the “Retail Plan”). Following the County Board work session in January, the Retail Plan has undergone some further refinements. The number one theme which emerged during the County Board work session was “flexibility,” as the Board felt it was critical that the Retail Plan be able to adapt to fast-changing trends in retail.

Taking that to heart, Ms. Griffin explained that the draft Retail Plan was reorganized in hopes of making it more user-friendly and the six broad principles of retail (as defined in the plan) remained at the core of the policy.

On January 20, during a special work session open to the public, the County Board considered updates to the Arlington County Retail Action Plan (the “Retail Plan"). County Board members met with Arlington Economic Development staff, the Arlington Retail Task Force of the Economic Development Commission and members of the Planning Commission. In the audience were members of the Arlington Chamber of Commerce and the local Business Improvement Districts.

The discussion centered on the role of the Retail Plan going forward, including the Plan’s overall vision, principals and policy.

In Part I of this blog post, we discussed the varied interests of the landlord and the tenant's lender in the tenant’s personal property located at the premises in the context of a commercial lease.  Part II below will discuss suggested compromise solutions and a typical landlord waiver. 

It has been widely reported that Northrop Grumman has chosen a building located in the Fairview Park area of Fairfax County to relocate approximately 300 employees from Los Angeles. Certainly this decision bodes well for the Northern Virginia region as a whole, as proximity to Washington, D.C., the Pentagon and the Northern Virginia technology centers offers many advantages. In recent years, other corporate giants such as Hilton, CSC, and Volkswagen of America have all relocated to Northern Virginia. After deciding on Virginia instead of Maryland, Northrop Grumman focused on sites in Arlington and Fairfax Counties before ultimately selecting the Fairview Park property. State and local government incentive programs were considerable.

Dipping toes in the waterToday we tip our toe, quite gingerly we might add, into the ugly place where preliminary statistics and politics meet. In the last week, print news and the internet have been awash with reports on stimulus spending today and estimates of the impact that spending has had a jobs created or saved. In particular, Chris Thorman and Don Fornes of Construction Software Advice have culled through the quarterly reports which are publicly available at www.recovery.gov and provided a detailed state-by-state breakdown of construction stimulus spending amounts awarded, amounts "received", jobs created and the cost per job (this article was also posted to ENR's blog and both have separate comments).

Cash flow and payment related issues continue to be of critical importance on construction projects. We recently posted on Basics of Mechanics Liens in Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia. We now turn to basic terms relating to notifications and required actions for payment bond claims in Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia. This discussion relates to public projects which are governed by statutory requirements for issuance of payment bonds and claims under those bonds. Private projects sometime have bonds as well; however, the terms of the bonds themselves would generally govern on bond claims on commercial projects. As with the mechanic's lien article, thanks go to Juanita Ferguson, a construction litigator at the firm whose upcoming newsletter article on liens and bonds forms the backbone of this post.