Friday, Jul 20, 2012

Virginia Supreme Court Overturns Long Lane

In an opinion handed down on June 7, 2012, the Virginia Supreme Court reversed the Loudoun County Circuit Court’s decision in Long Lane Associates Limited Partnership v. Town of Leesburg and held that an adjoining landowner in a development subject to common proffers has no vested right in the continuation of the original zoning.

Long Lane alters the result in a case that had troubled land use lawyers, since it appeared to limit severely the ability to change the zoning in planned developments after portions had been sold, and to place a veto power in the hands of other owners. The most important aspects of the opinion are that:

1. A landowner can only have a vested right in its property, and not the use or expectation of use in a neighbor’s land.
2. A landowner can only have a vested right in the use of his or her land, and not a particular proffer.
3. A landowner does not need the consent of other owners of land subject to a common proffer scheme to seek a rezoning of its land.
4. Each individual parcel of property subject to such a scheme is a “property” under Va. Code Ann. § 15.2-2303(A) and therefore that statute does not create enforceable rights in adjacent owners, and the zoning of each parcel may be “subsequently amended.”
5. The adoption or amendment of written proffers or rezoning ordinances, and the amendment of a comprehensive plan are legislative acts that will not be disturbed absent clear proof that they are unreasonable, arbitrary, and bear no relation to the public health, safety, morals, or general welfare.