Contentious land use approvals often result in lawsuits, which, even when unsuccessful, can lead to costly delays for developers. In the recent case styled In Re: November 20, 2013 Decision of the Board of Zoning Appeals of Fairfax County, the Fairfax County Circuit Court threw out one such legal challenge by homeowners to a controversial Zoning Administrator determination that the Board of Supervisors could approve a proposed storage facility by The Girl Scout Counsel of the Nation’s Capital (“GSC”) in conjunction with its special exception application to increase the occupancy of Camp Crowell in Oakton, Virginia. On appeal by nearby homeowners, the Board of Zoning Appeals reversed the Zoning Administrator. However, the circuit court then held that the BZA decision was void because the homeowners lacked standing to appeal the Zoning Administrator’s determination in the first place.
Legislation proposed in the Virginia House of Delegates would give the City of Fairfax specific authority to adopt an affordable housing ordinance offering bonus development density in projects that provide an affordable housing component. Legislation at the state level is necessary, because under Virginia’s Dillon Rule a locality has only those powers that are expressly granted, those that can be implied from an express power and those that are essential and indispensable to the locality’s functions. Under the proposed legislation, the City of Fairfax could then move to adopt an amendment to its zoning ordinance that would allow bonus density in exchange for affordable housing. This would help solve an issue that recently arose in two City of Fairfax projects, where the City encountered redevelopment proposals and sought affordable housing contributions as part of the projects.
Arlington’s County Board is set to expand the number of properties eligible for its Technology Zone tax incentive program. On December 13, the County Board will consider adding properties zoned Commercial/Mixed Use or Industrial to the list of qualifying properties. Currently, only properties located within one of the County’s four Technology Zones qualify for the incentive program. The current Technology Zones include commercially or industrially zoned properties in the Rosslyn-Ballston Corridor, the Jefferson-Davis Corridor, Shirlington and Columbia Pike Corridor, as more fully described in Appendix A to Chapter 66 of the Arlington County Code.
Despite the lingering effects of the Great Recession on real estate, residential infill development is a popular model in Northern Virginia for the residential developer. With infill development, a developer will typically purchase an existing home that sits on multiple legal lots, and then seek subdivision approval from the local government to create several buildable lots for new homes. But with that comes specific challenges to developed neighborhoods. Among others, neighborhoods in areas like Arlington and Fairfax are faced with increased water flow over adjoining properties, which can cause flooding of basements and backyard ponding, among other woes. So, what is everyone to do?
Sustained population growth in the District of Columbia in recent years has spurred a rapid wave of construction throughout the city as upscale condominium projects appear to spring up almost overnight to meet growing demand for housing. But while residential development has been a welcome sign of revitalization in areas from U Street to NoMa, a particular type of residential project, the “pop-up,” has been the subject of intense debate in some of Washington, D.C.’s established row house neighborhoods. In mid-July, D.C.’s Office of Planning seemed to take the side of the anti-pop-up camp when it proposed a zoning text amendment that would limit the development of pop-ups in the city. However, alternative ideas discussed at the Zoning Commission’s initial hearing on the proposal may lead to a middle-ground approach that would slow down, but not ban the rise of pop-ups in D.C.
The Washington, D.C. metropolitan area has no shortage of airplanes flying over the region. There is also no shortage of developers and landowners who want to create the region’s landmark buildings and skyscrapers which may fall within flight paths. These developers would rightfully be concerned that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is proposing a change to its One Engine Inoperative (OEI) policy that could affect building height limits. The current proposal would allow the FAA to work with airport owners to define an OEI departure area from the runway.
The construction industry is all too familiar with its perception as a means by which individual and corporate citizens alike may experience economic opportunity. Whether at the federal, state or municipal level, set-aside programs exist to give small, local and other discrete businesses the ability to compete for lucrative construction contracts. Efforts to support local business and increase the employment of residents are important to strengthen local economies. However, it is worthwhile to reevaluate government participation in the contractor selection process to ensure the goals of set-aside programs do not produce unintended results.
In the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area there are a variety of programs that allow for small businesses, local businesses, minority-owned, female-owned, disadvantaged and veteran-owned businesses to participate in construction projects in which states and municipalities are market participants. Among the federal government, D.C. government, and governing bodies in the counties of Prince George’s, Montgomery, Arlington, Alexandria, Fairfax, Prince William and Loudoun, there is a deliberate push to create jobs for residents and local businesses. The benefits are obvious. An increased tax base and productivity builds better communities. But can more be done for the corporate participants?
As of July 1, 2014, Virginia landowners will have a new tool to use in the zoning game. On April 6, 2014, Governor McAuliffe signed SB 578 into law. The bill provides a damages remedy for applicants seeking zoning or subdivision approvals and who are faced with accepting the imposition of unconstitutional conditions as the price for approval. The new law reflects recent cases in the United States Supreme Court, but also affirms a long standing rule against unconstitutional conditions set by the Virginia Supreme Court in the 1970s and 1980s.
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.