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Posts tagged Virginia Land Use/Zoning.

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.

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

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.

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.