The commercial real estate and property sector in Northern Virginia and Prince William County has experienced fluctuations in recent years which resulted in vacant buildings. For the owners of these properties, they’re left with a tough decision – let the property stay vacant or repurpose the property.
Repurposing property is
using a building differently than the original intent. As a property owner, you
are looking for cost-effective ways to keep your investment profitable. For example, If you turn an old factory into
loft apartments, or a barn into an event center, the building sees new life,
you continue to make money, and all without building on existing green space.
But it isn’t always that easy to change land use of an existing property.
Land use considerations
Land use laws regulate
how businesses can operate on certain lands. The most common form of land use
regulation is zoning. Cities use this legal process all across the country to
help regulate their local development. Zoning laws prevent you from coming home
to your well-established housing neighborhood and finding a big box store has
set up shop next door.
While it’s not likely for
a big box store to pop up next to houses, it is possible as in our earlier
example, for a factory to become loft apartments. The zoning for that land must
change to account for residents living on the property instead of people coming
to work. Without making this change, it puts both the business operator and
you, the property owner, in legal peril. It’s up to you to make sure the city
allows the land use modification.
Special use permit (SUP)
A special use permit
allows a local government to take a look at one particular development and to
impose conditions needed to mitigate any impacts on the community. It is
available only if the zoning ordinance provides for it.
To obtain a special use permit, you must get approval from the governing body in your community. You need to file an application, submit the filing fee, provide documentation supporting your request, and submit to questioning at a public hearing. See the steps outlined below:
The conversion of the 18th century historic estate, Effingham Manor, into a winery caused a stir among residential neighbors who claimed that the winery breached the community’s 2004 development covenants and filed suit. The opposition came as a surprise to the winery owner, Chris Pearmund, thinking the winery would be an ideal fit for the bucolic community. He came to Manassas trial attorney Randolph D. Frostick (Randy) of Vanderpool, Frostick, & Nishanian, P.C. for legal representation in the case. On May 26, 2017, Prince William County Circuit Court Judge Steven Smith ruled in favor of our client, allowing Effingham Manor Winery to open for business in Fall 2017.
“Not only did Randy have compelling evidence in this case, but he also argued his point with finesse and detail in line with the law, which is what VF&N’s attorneys are known for. We are proud of his hard work, skill, and dedication to his client, and are thrilled by the outcome” says VF&N managing partner Michael Vanderpool.
A main point of contention in the case was a 2005 amendment to the development’s covenants that removed the manor house from the residential restrictions. This amendment was upheld in court despite arguments that it was invalid because it was not filed with a certification required by the Virginia Property Owners Association Act. Circuit Judge Steven Smith ruled that the legislation’s use of “may” over “shall” in regard to the amendment allowed an alternative method if authorized by a declaration.
Three key pieces of evidence bolstered the decision:
Zinone v. Lee’s Crossing Homeowners Ass’n held amendments following the terms of the declaration valid without regard for statutory procedure.
The General Assembly amended the POAA legislation this year to exempt declarations from the POAA’s procedural requirements for amendments, effective July 1, 2017.
The developer, Frank Smerbeck, testified that he had intended to keep the manor lot free of residential restrictions due to its historic value and commercial potential.
Homeowners also tried to block the winery’s road access, claiming that the increased traffic would overburden the easement. However, the judge backed the winery’s existing agreement to pay half of the road maintenance costs for the subdivision.
This case, along with the new legislative amendment, assures property owners’ associations and their lawyers that their declarative amendments are legally sound.
Randy Frostick has been providing civil trial and alternative dispute resolution solutions to clients throughout Virginia since 1983 in both state and federal courts and various arbitration and mediation panels. He represents a diverse range of clients, including businesses, municipalities, and individuals, in a wide range of cases. For over thirty years, Randy has provided his clients legal guidance to both avoid and resolve civil disputes without litigation, and when necessary, zealously advocated for their legal rights in court or arbitration. Learn more about Randy here.
On Wednesday, representatives from the City of Manassas came together with Governor Terry McAuliffe and Buchanan Partners to announce the receipt of grants permitting the construction of a new brewery and restaurant in the commercial development of the Gateway Center, now known as The Landing at Cannon Branch. The attorneys at VF&N are pleased to have represented the City of Manassas Economic Development Authority regarding the legal work necessary for the development of The Landing at Cannon Branch and the proceedings moving forward.
The Landing at Cannon Branch is a 40 acre, $250 million-dollar mixed used development which will house, not only the brewery, but hotels, retail, offices, restaurants and over 270 new homes, aiding in the community’s economic growth and engagement. Governor Terry McAuliffe announced that 66 new jobs will be created in the City of Manassas due to the placement of the brewery.
The City of Manassas has been marketing the Gateway property for twenty years, waiting on the best project and development partners to collaborate and make it into a unique place that residents of the locality and businesses can benefit from.
Buchanan Partners is working as the master developer of the project, while Stanley Martin will be developing a component in the residential side of the property. The location will also feature hotels, restaurants, and other commercial developments. As the attorney’s overseeing the City of Manassas developments for this project, we look forward to seeing what’s in store for this site.