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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 tagged Virginia Land Use/Zoning.
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.

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.

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

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.

On October 31, 2013, the Virginia Supreme Court decided Old Dominion Boat Club v. Alexandria City Council, et al.  The case involved ongoing litigation between the Old Dominion Boat Club (ODBC), the City of Alexandria, and the owner of a restaurant along Union Street in Alexandria, regarding the continuing existence of a private easement in a public alley. 

Arlnow.com recently reported that the Arlington Ridge Civic Association (ARCA) has requested the Arlington County Board “freeze” all zoning action within the Arlington Ridge neighborhood until the impact of current development on the neighborhood can be assessed.  This request came as part of ARCA updating its Neighborhood Conservation Plan, a non-binding document that creates recommendations for county staff to consider during zoning permit requests.  ARCA appears to be making the request because of recent growth in their neighborhood, due in part to the fact the neighborhood sits adjacent to I-395, South Glebe Road, and is near the Pentagon City mall.

Political contributions and developer-politician interaction are facts of life in the development community.  And it makes sense too – developers bring many benefits to communities, such as housing, work space, shopping, and contributions to community amenities, while politicians help marshal the project in a manner they believe will benefit constituents.  To be sure, there must be reasonable limits that prevent Chicago-style politics from arising.  Virginia has several such laws, including the State and Local Government Conflicts of Interest Act (Va. Code section 2.2-3100, et seq.) and various other “conflict of interest” statutes.

Arlington Commercial Parking Working Group

It is no secret Arlington’s workforce is changing how they get to work.  In recent years, there has been a shift from single-occupancy vehicle (“SOV”) trips to other transportation modes, such as Metrorail, bicycling, and bus.  This has caused developers of commercial site plan projects in Arlington County, especially along the Rosslyn-Ballston Corridor and in Pentagon City, to request modifications to the parking space requirements of the Arlington County Zoning Ordinance.  These requests are frequently granted with the quid pro quo that the county receives mitigation contributions from developers, such as payments into transportation capital and operating budgets.  The result is that the county’s parking ratio standard of one parking space per 580 square feet has become merely a placeholder for county mitigation efforts. 

Real estate lawyers and developers know that overcoming NIMBYism is a huge challenge. We are finding that even after approval, you still may face other hurdles including neighbors or even your business competitors challenging or appealing your zoning or permit approval.

Virginia Lawyer’s Weekly recently reported that the Supreme Court of Virginia issued an “unusual order” ... “acting with uncommon speed” when it ordered a halt to two planned local government hearings in Prince William County in such a case.