Webinar: Vested Rights in Zoning 2010

By: Andrew McRoberts, Editor. This was posted Monday, May 24th, 2010

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On May 19, a team of great folks at Sands Anderson and our special guest Karen Harwood conducted a webinar on the State of Vested Rights (in Zoning), 2010 — the first installment of an ongoing series called the Sands Anderson Land Use Forum.

We’ve been busy! (This will explain, in part, the length of time since my last post, for which I apologize.)

Planned for several months, the webinar was well-received and timely, given two major vested rights decisions by the Virginia Supreme Court in 2009, Hale v. Board of Zoning Appeals of Blacksburg, 277 Va. 250, 673 S.E.2d 170 (2009) and Board of Supervisors of Stafford County v. Crucible, 278 Va. 152, 677 S.E.2d 283 (2009), and the amendment of the vested rights statute, Virginia Code § 15.2-2307, by the 2010 General Assembly via HB 1250.

The webinar included an overview of vested rights law that lead up to the codification of a Virginia statutory vested rights standard in 1998, the vested rights cases since codification, most notably City of Suffolk, ex rel Herbert v. Board of Zoning Appeals, 266 Va. 137, 580 S.E.2d 796 (2003), and, of course, Hale and Crucible.

The webinar also included excellent analysis by Karen Harwood, former Deputy Fairfax County Attorney and long-time legislative liaison for Fairfax County. Karen gave her perspective as one involved in both the General Assembly process that lead to the original codification of vested rights in Virginia in 1998, and this year’s process that led to this year’s HB 1250. Her extensive experience in both land use law and in the legislature, and her straight-forward commentary and advice made the webinar a learning experience for everyone.

Joining me on the panel from Sands Anderson were Ann Neal Cosby and Annemarie Cleary, fellow members of the Sands Anderson local government team and primary authors of the local government amicus curiae brief in the Crucible case. Since I authored the local government amicus curiae brief in the Hale case, Sands Anderson has been very active in the advancement of vested rights law in Virginia!

There were two primary goals in offering the webinar for free to local government attorneys, zoning officials and staff: (i) to give local governments free training at a time when their budgets are stretched, and (ii) to give timely commentary and assistance to local governments trying to address HB 1250.

As discussed in an earlier post on this blog, HB 1250 added a new defined “significant affirmative governmental act” (SAGA) to the six already delineated in the statute. Now, for the first time, a written determination by the zoning administrator can, under the right circumstances, be a SAGA. By statute, a SAGA can potentially vest rights to a use or density despite a change in the zoning ordinance. So the stakes can be quite high.

Here is an excerpted version of the outline on Vested Rights 2010, to give you an idea of the content of the webinar. Local government attorneys, zoning officials and staff members are welcome to contact me for the full outline.

Thanks to the over 200 local government attorneys, zoning officials and staff who participated, and the entire team that made the webinar a success!

We are planning another installment of the Sands Anderson Land Use Forum for Fall 2010, tentatively scheduled for November 17, 2010. What topic would you like to see presented?

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