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Real Estate Development

6
Aug
2019

Qualified Opportunity Zone Funds

Tax reform legislation enacted in 2017 created the opportunity for significant new capital gains tax benefits for investors in qualified opportunity funds (QOFs). The primary purpose of the law is to create economic development as well as job creation in economically distressed communities. The Treasury, in coordination with State Governors, certified nearly 9,000 census tracts as QOZs.  There are two enumerated QOZs right here in Manassas and several more throughout Fauquier & Prince William County. See Designated Qualified Opportunity Zone map here.

Significant capital gains tax benefits for investors

A QOF is an investment vehicle that invests in real estate or other businesses located in certain areas that have been designated as qualified opportunity zones (QOZs). This legislation provides the ability for investors with existing capital gains tax liability, to reduce the amount of those tax obligations by up to 15%, and more significantly, allowing the reinvestment of those funds to accrue tax free; provided, that, they are invested in a QOZ and held for at least 10 years.  Clearly, this is a tremendous tax advantage for investors that are interested in making a real estate or business investment in a QOZ.

No restriction on the source of those capital gains

Another added benefit is that there is no restriction on the source of those capital gains in order to take advantage of this new legislation. While QOZ investment options are limited to real estate or businesses in QOZs, the source of funds can come from a wide range of investments giving rise to capital gains tax.

Additional guidance released in May 2019

Although when it was first enacted, there were many unanswered open issues with respect to the legislation, the United States Department of the Treasury (Treasury), has issued proposed regulations and additional guidance related to QOFs on May 1, 2019, which updated the original regulations and guidance from October 19, 2018. Updates included clarification on topics such as:

  1. Investing Capital gains into a QOF
  2. Structuring Issues related to investment into a QOF
  3. Investing by the QOF into a QOZ property
  4. Operating within the qualified opportunity zone
  5. Exiting the QOF

Need Assistance?

Our experienced team of attorneys are able to assist you with your QOF investment questions, clarification on the recent legislative updates, and prospective transactions in order to take advantage of this unique opportunity.

Authored by: Markus Ebert

19
Jul
2019

So What Did Change with the New Proffer Law?

In our first blog post on the 2019 Virginia proffer legislation, we told you what hasn’t changed with the new law. As promised, now we will address what has changed.

Myth: Under the new law, localities have no liability exposure for unreasonable demands unless the governing body requests one in writing, so planning staff can talk to developers again. 

Reality: The new legislation says that developers and localities can talk, but the old legislation didn’t say they couldn’t. The reason why local government attorneys warned staff against talking to developers was the Koontz decision from the US Supreme Court, and specifically Justice Kagan’s dissent in that case which warned that “no local government official with a decent lawyer would have a conversation with a developer” because of the risk of liability. (That hasn’t changed.) There’s also the question of whether a local governing body authorizes or ratifies a written request from a staff member.

The bottom line is that the new law changes the liability exposure of localities, but localities should still exercise caution.

Myth: Under the new law, localities can expect to receive proffers for facilities in addition to the four enumerated facility types of transportation, schools, public safety, and parks.

Reality: The new legislation allows for proffers to be deemed reasonable if signed by the applicant and property owner, even if they are for off-site proffers that aren’t for the four kinds of public facility. However, beware that the new law takes away with one hand what it hands out with the other. Right after the language about the owner and applicant being able to make any offsite proffer reasonable just by signing it, the General Assembly wrote the following:

2. Failure to submit proffers as set forth in subdivision 1 shall not be a basis for the denial of any rezoning or proffer condition amendment application.

This raises an interesting question if the locality relies upon impacts on facilities other than transportation, parks, schools and public safety to deny a rezoning.

Myth: Under the new law, an applicant has to object in writing to a proffer request in order to challenge it later. 

Reality: Challenges based on violations of “this section” (Va. Code Section 15.2-2303.4) require a written objection to the governing body before the aggrieved applicant can file suit. This limits the availability of the legal remedies under that code section, but does not limit the remedies available for a constitutional challenge or a challenge based on another statute.   It is also important to note that this section does not extend to conditions imposed pursuant to a special use permit.

Localities still need to do their own analysis on whether a proffer request is reasonable. Maybe not as much changed with the new law as some people are hoping.

By the Proffer Professors: Mike Vanderpool & Martin Crim

14
May
2019

Book Smarts…VF&N attorney, textbook contributor

Pictured above: VF&N land use and zoning attorney, Karen Cohen, with legendary engineer, Sid Dewberry, PE, LS, Chairman Emeritus, Dewberry, Kat Grimsley, Director of the MS Real Estate Development program at George Mason University, and the team of book contributors, celebrating the publication of the third in a series of land development books by industry-leading design firm, Dewberry. 

Development of the Built Environment: From Site Acquisition to Project Completion is a textbook that explores the entire development process from an applied perspective to provide architects, civil engineers, and other team members with an understanding of the context in which real estate development occurs.  Karen, fellow alumnae of the Mason Masters of Real Estate Development (MRED) program, and others, were contributors and advisors.

2
May
2019

Land use and zoning explained: Repurposing an established building through a special use permit

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 process to obtain a SUP

23
Apr
2019

2019 Virginia Proffer Law Changes: Myths Unraveled

As attorneys and self-proclaimed Proffer Professors, we were concerned by what we were hearing from the industry on the recent proffer reform. Blanket statements like, “oh, it’s just a repeal of the 2016 law” or “proffer schedules are legal now”.  In this post, we clear the air of misconceptions.

Myth: The 2019 law repealed the 2016 law

Fact: To debunk the first myth, we’ll just note that the 2019 law leaves large parts of the 2016 law intact. For example, the law still forbids a local government from denying a rezoning application for residential development “where such denial is based in whole or in part on an applicant’s failure or refusal to submit an unreasonable proffer.” For another, the law still exempts qualified “small area comprehensive plans.” There are some significant changes, though, and we will comment on them in future blog posts.

Myth: Proffer schedules are now legally OK

Fact: As for the second myth, the 2019 law doesn’t clear the constitutional hurdle for proffer schedules. Under federal case law, a proffer first must be connected to the development impacts (that is, it has to have a “nexus”) and second, there must be “rough proportionality,” which refers to the degree of connection between the proffer and the development’s projected impact.

So, just how “rough” can the degree of connection be and still pass muster under the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution?  The U.S. Supreme Court (in a case called Dolan) answered that question this way:  “No precise mathematical calculation is required, but the [locality] must make some sort of individualized determination that the required dedication is related both in nature and extent to the proposed development.” 

A locality can still provide information about how much it costs to build a school, police station, or park, but because a “one size fits all” proffer schedule lacks the required individualized determination, it is subject to attack on constitutional grounds.

Stay tune for the next topic: So what did change?

By the Proffer Professors: Mike Vanderpool, Martin Crim, and Karen Cohen  

27
Dec
2018

FINDING COMMON GROUND ON PROFFER REFORM IN VIRGINIA

Since its controversial passage in 2016, Virginia’s Proffer Reform Law has continued to stir debate. Despite the rift between homebuilders and local governments over the law, efforts are underway to find common ground.

Initially, opponents of the law sought either outright repeal or additional exemptions to make the law inapplicable to certain parts of the Commonwealth. However, recent efforts have instead focused on reforming the Proffer Reform law.

This published article, co-authored by VF&N Attorneys Michael R. Vanderpool and Karen L. Cohen, highlights some of the key concerns voiced by both opponents and supporters of the law, and evaluates what types of legislative changes may be appropriate in light of common law and constitutional limitations.

Download Full Report: Proffer Reform in Virginia

12
Dec
2018

General Contractors Beware of New Maryland Law

by Guy R. Jeffress, Esq.

The Maryland General Assembly passed Senate Bill 853, which took effect on October 1, 2018, that added the following text to Section 3-507.2 of the Maryland Code, Labor & Employment:

In an action brought under subsection (a) of this section, a general contractor on a project for construction services is jointly and severally liable for a violation of this subtitle that is committed by a subcontractor, regardless of whether the subcontractor is in a direct contractual relationship with the general contractor.

If a court finds that a sub-contractor failed, under certain circumstances, to properly pay an employee, the general contractor may be liable for damages, counsel fees, and other costs.

The Act now permits an employee of a sub-contractor, who was not paid in accordance with applicable Maryland wage/hour laws, the right of action against the general contractor even though there is no direct contractual relationship between the general contractor and the subcontractor’s employee.

Risk mitigation strategies for Owners, General Contractors and Senior Sub-Contractors involved in Maryland based construction projects:

  1. Inspection of Payroll Records – Include in your contracts a provision that requires subcontractors to provide certified and detailed payroll information with every pay application.
  2. Audit Clauses – Include provisions in your contracts that permits you to conduct “spot audits” or “interviews” with sub-contractor employees.
  3. Certifications – Require sub-contractors to certify or declare in their payment applications that they have checked/audited the payrolls of every sub-contractor at every tier to confirm the payment of employees.
  4. Insurance/Bonding – Require subcontractors to furnish payment and/or performance bonds or wage-hour insurance. To cover the entire statutory period for wage claims, these bonds or insurance will have to be maintained for three years after final payment of wages on the project.
  5. Broad Indemnity and Personal Guaranty Provisions – In addition to any existing general indemnification clause, include a specific clause or language addressing claims arising out of any violations of the Act. Require that the principals of all sub-contractors personally guaranty compliance with the Act and payment of employees.
  6. Flow Down of Terms and Conditions – Require that all clauses in the sub-contract relating to the Act and subcontractor’s obligations thereunder flow down to each subcontract tier.
  7. Obligation to Defend – In addition to indemnification obligations there should also be provisions all sub-contracts requiring the sub-contractor to defend the general/direct contractor for violations of the Act.
  8. Hiring Decisions – Include provisions giving the general contractor the power to approve or reject the hiring of sub-subcontractors of all tiers.
  9. Site Security – Implement site security to confirm identification of all employees on the job site so no previously unidentified individuals can later appear seemingly out of nowhere and claim that an employer/subcontractor did not pay them.
  10. Creation of Fiduciary Duty – “In-Trust” Requirements – Include a provision in all private works sub-contracts requiring sub-contractors to hold all payments received “in trust” for the benefit of the direct contractor and the benefit of the subcontractor’s employees, lower-tiered subcontractor employees, for the purpose of meeting the wage and benefit obligations owed not only to the subcontractor’s employees but the employees of any lower-tiered subcontractors.
  11. Increased Retention – Increase retention percentages, withholding, and back-charges depending on the sub-contractor and size of job.
  12. Identification of General Contractor – expressly note the identity of the general contractor in each contract. Project owners may want to include disclaimers that they are “not” acting as the general contractor.
  13. Three Years Statute of Limitations – A general contractor should retain pertinent records from all subcontractors for at least that long following project completion and should make sure that all indemnification obligations survive the completion of the project for that length of time as well.

Please contact us at 703-369-4738 with any questions.

*The information contained in this website is provided for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. The material on this website may not reflect the most current legal developments. The content and interpretation of the law addressed herein is subject to revision. We disclaim all liability in respect to actions taken or not taken based on any or all the contents of this site. Do not act or refrain from acting upon this information without seeking professional legal counsel.

6
Dec
2018

VF&N Litigation Attorney Brett A. Callahan Wins Precedent Setting Cell Tower Case for Homeowners

Special Use Permit is Invalid

On Sept. 10th, 2018, Prince William County Circuit Court Judge Carroll Weimer, Jr. ruled in favor of a group of homeowners, voiding the grant of a Special Use Permit (SUP) for a cell phone tower.

Under the legal representation of Brett A. Callahan of Vanderpool, Frostick & Nishanian P.C. litigation team, the homeowners claimed that they were not properly notified of the Planning Commission hearing or the Board of Supervisors (BOS) public hearing on the SUP for a cell phone tower to be placed near their homes.

Meaning of the word “Current”

The homeowners bought into a new subdivision March through late May 2016, yet the SUP applicant and County used a February 3, 2016 Adjacent Property Owners (APO) list to send notices. This list was based on an earlier list generated by the County from the tax records. The applicant maintained that they had relied on the list provided by the County and the County’s policy was that an APO list up to six months old is “current.” The County likewise argued that it is their prerogative to apply an administrative interpretation that an APO list based on tax records up to six months old is “current” under the notice statute to avoid excessive burden on the County.

The judge determined:

  • A policy permitting APO lists based on six-month-old tax records is not in compliance with the law either under the plain meaning of the word “current” in the statute or legislative intent standard of statutory interpretation, especially in light of how quickly County tax assessment records are updated and the free and easy access to tax assessment records through the County’s website.
  • The SUP is void ab initio for lack of notice.

* NO GUARANTEE OF RESULTS: Our prior results, including successful judgments and settlements, do not guarantee a similar outcome. Each case we handle is different and therefore we cannot guarantee any specific result in your case

25
Aug
2017

The Landing At Cannon Branch Moves Forward with Grants

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.