Virginia Real Estate, Land Use & Construction Law Blog

Virginia Real Estate, Land Use & Construction Law Blog

Insight & commentary on real estate, land use and construction law in Virginia.

Water, Water, Everywhere

Posted in Land Use/Zoning, Virginia Land Use/Zoning

A drop of water in a pond.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?

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D.C. Office of Planning Takes a Stand Against Pop-Ups With New Zoning Text Amendment

Posted in DC Land Use/Zoning, Urban Planning
Pop-up condo in the U Street Neighborhood

Pop-Up on V Street, image courtesy of Prince of Petworth

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.

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Look! Up in the Sky! It’s a…Plane!: Proposed FAA Policy Could Affect Building Heights

Posted in Codes and Regulations, Economic Development, Real Estate

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.

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Out of State . . . Out of Mind?: Ensuring that Local and Out-of-State Construction Companies Play by the Same Rules

Posted in Contracts

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?

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New Tools in the Zoning Game

Posted in State Government, Virginia Land Use/Zoning

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.

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Rosslyn Sector Plan Update: Step One

Posted in Virginia Land Use/Zoning

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

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Lorton Landfill Dispute Nearing Board of Supervisors’ Review

Posted in Virginia Land Use/Zoning

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.

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I Know My (Vested) Rights! Developing a Project in a Changing Climate

Posted in Land Use/Zoning

More than one landowner has been disappointed to find out they cannot develop their property how they would like. This disappointment can be compounded if the landowner bought a property based on its zoning potential, but the locality then rezoned the property to remove the use, essentially pulling the rug out from under them. Luckily, if the right circumstances exist, there are rules protecting landowners’ development expectations. This article will focus on the first element of those rules – obtaining a significant, affirmative governmental act.

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Handshakes to Hashtags: The Evolution of Deal-Making in the Construction Industry

Posted in Contracts

Ask anyone who has several years of experience in construction if they ever engaged in a handshake deal and the answer will be a resounding “yes.” For those unfamiliar with the term, a handshake deal is essentially a verbal commitment that is sealed with a handshake between the contracting parties. Handshake deals were not just limited to transactions between a contractor and an individual. It was, and sometimes still is, common for businesses to engage in sophisticated deals with a simple handshake between business owners. The moment the parties shook hands, reputations were at stake and promises were meant to be kept. While the handshake did not obviate the need for documentation, the value of the handshake was understood to be the cornerstone of what the parties intended to occur for a construction project.

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Acceleration of Rents: Part 2, Drafting Reasonable Acceleration of Rent Provisions

Posted in Commercial Leasing

Part one of this post explained acceleration of rent provisions and how various courts around the country have scrutinized these provisions and taken varying positions on their enforceability and validity. Part two of this post, below, will discuss how landlords can include enforceable acceleration of rent provisions in their leases.

After first taking into account the laws of the applicable jurisdiction, the landlord needs to carefully review the proposed acceleration of rents provision to verify its enforceability under such law. Revising a potentially unenforceable clause to a simple and more reasonable approach could be beneficial to all parties.

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