Articles Posted in Virginia Supreme Court

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The Chincoteague Inn constructed a floating platform secured alongside its building to be used as part of the Inn’s restaurant. The platform was situated partially over state-owned submerged lands. In an enforcement action, the Virginia Marine Resources Commission directed removal of a portion of the platform. The circuit court set aside the Commission’s decision and dismissed with prejudice the Commission’s enforcement action, finding that the Commission lacked jurisdiction to require removal of the floating platform. A panel of the court of appeals reversed, holding that under the facts of this case, federal maritime law did not preempt the Commission’s authority to order the removal of the floating platform over state-owned submerged lands. The court of appeals then granted the Inn’s petition for a rehearing en banc, vacated the panel opinion, and affirmed the circuit court’s determination that the Commission lacked jurisdiction over the floating platform. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the court of appeals erred in interpreting the scope of the Commission’s authority under Va. Code Ann. 28.2-1203(A); and (2) because the court of appeals’ en banc opinion did not address the issue of federal preemption, that issue remained outstanding. Remanded. View "Va. Marine Res. Comm'n v. Chincoteague Inn" on Justia Law

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Lessee leased property owned by Owners pursuant to a lease agreement. A billboard was located on the property that had been declared illegal because it exceeded the permitted height limitations. Lessee and Owners filed a joint application for a variance with the Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) to allow the billboard to remain at its existing height. The BZA denied the variance. The circuit court upheld the BZA’s decision. Lessee appealed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the circuit court erred by applying an improper standard of review when considering the BZA’s decision to deny the request for a variance. Remanded. View "Lamar Co., LLC v. City of Richmond" on Justia Law

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The City of Richmond brought an enforcement action against the owners of real property (Owners) and the lessee of the property (Lessee), seeking removal of a billboard that Lessee maintained on the property, or, in the alternative, an order requiring the billboard to be lowered to a conforming height. Owners and Lessee filed separate complaints for declaratory judgment against the City, alleging that the City could not require removal of the billboard if the City had been paid taxes for more than fifteen years pursuant to Va. Code Ann. 15.2-2307. The circuit court sustained the demurrers filed by the City and dismissed the complaint, concluding that section 15.2-2307 was “merely enabling” legislation and that private property owners did not have the statutory vested rights protections unless a local government chose to adopt an implementing ordinance thereunder. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the circuit court erred by holding that section 15.2-2307 was “merely enabling” legislation. View "Lamar Co., LLC v. City of Richmond" on Justia Law

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Ubaldo Rodriguez was an employee the general contractor hired by Leesburg Business Park, LLC (LBP) to construct warehouse buildings on a parcel of undeveloped land owned by LBP. Ubaldo suffered fatal injuries in the course of employment. Cecilia Rodriguez, Ubaldo’s widow and the administrator of his estate, filed a wrongful death action against LBP. LBP filed a plea in bar, which the circuit court granted on the grounds that Cecilia’s claim was barred because Ubaldo was the statutory co-employee of LBP. The Supreme Court reversed. On remand, LBP moved to reconsider its plea in bar, arguing that it was Ubaldo’s statutory employer and that Cecilia’s recovery was limited to Workers’ Compensation benefits only. The circuit court sustained the plea in bar and dismissed the complaint with prejudice. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Ubaldo’s work at the time of the accident was not part of LBP’s “trade, business, or occupation,” and therefore, LBP was not Ubaldo’s statutory employer at the time of the accident under Va. Code Ann. 65.2-302(A). Remanded. View "Rodriguez v. Leesburg Bus. Park, LLC " on Justia Law

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At issue in this case was Va. Code Ann. 15.2-2303.1:1(A), which provides that cash payment made pursuant to a cash proffer offered or accepted for residential construction on a per-dwelling unit shall be accepted by any locality only after the completion of the final inspection of the property. Here several developers and Williamsburg Landing (collectively, Respondents) made proffers to the County, which included per-dwelling cash payments, related to the rezoning of their property. The cash payments for some dwelling units made by Respondents were accepted by the County under the terms of the proffers after June 30, 2010 and prior to the completion of a final inspection of the dwelling units. The County filed a complaint for declaratory judgment, contending that section 15.2-2303.1:1(A) had no application to proffers agreed to prior to its effective date of July 1, 2010. The district court granted summary judgment to Respondents. The Supreme Court affirmed the grant of summary judgment, holding that the circuit court did not err in ruling that section 15.2-2303.1:1(A) applies to all payments of cash proffers due on or after July 1, 2010 regardless of whether the proffers were agreed to prior to that date. View "Bd. of Supervisors of James City County v. Windmill Meadows, LLC" on Justia Law

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Landowner initiated plans to develop his property as a cluster subdivision. Landowner received a compliance letter from the county zoning administrator indicating that Landowner’s property met the standards set forth in the applicable ordinance. After the zoning administrator issued the compliance letter, the county’s board of supervisors repealed the ordinance. Landowner filed a declaratory judgment action against the county and the board, seeking a declaration that he obtained a vested right to develop his property as a by-right cluster subdivision in accordance with the terms of the ordinance. In support of his claim, Landowner asserted that the compliance letter constituted a significant affirmative governmental act under Va. Code Ann. 15.2-2307, which was necessary to find Landowner had vested land use rights. The circuit court ruled in favor of Landowner. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the zoning administrator’s issuance of the confirmation letter was not a significant affirmative governmental act; and (2) therefore, the circuit court erred in holding that Landowner acquired a vested right under section 15.2-2307 to develop his property as a cluster subdivision. View "Bd. of Supervisors of Prince George County v. McQueen" on Justia Law

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Tanisha Bates was indicted for arson. The circuit court found Bates not guilty by reason of insanity. Subsequently, the circuit court concluded that Bates was in need of inpatient hospitalization and committed her to the custody of the Commissioner of Mental Health, Mental Retardation and Substance Abuse Services. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court did not err when it determined that the particular circumstances warranted Bates’ commitment to inpatient hospitalization rather than to conditional release because it correctly applied the standards articulated in Va. Code Ann. 19.2-182.3 and 19.2-182.7 to the present case. View "Bates v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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In 1998, Norfolk approved the Hampton Boulevard Redevelopment Project created by the Norfolk Redevelopment and Housing Authority pursuant to Code § 36-49, which authorizes such an authority to "adopt a redevelopment plan for a designated redevelopment area to address blighted areas" and Code § 36-51(A), which authorizes localities to approve redevelopment plans. The approval was based on a redevelopment study which determined that the area was blighted due to incompatible land uses, disrepair, environmental risks, demographic changes, and high crime rates. Properties were classified as good, fair, or poor; about 20 percent were classified as poor. The area was selected to assist in the expansion of Old Dominion University, immediately adjacent to the Redevelopment Project. Challenges to individual condemnations were rejected and a trial court upheld the finding of blight. In 2010 the Authority initiated condemnation of PKO’s apartment building. PKO appealed the adverse decision. The Virginia Supreme Court held that the court erred in permitting the Authority to acquire PKO's property after the effective date of the statutory limitation added by Code § 1-219.1, which provides that property taken for condemnation must itself be blighted at the time the petition for condemnation is filed. The limitation applies to all redevelopment and housing authorities operating pursuant to redevelopment plans adopted prior to January 1, 2007. It does not refer to the filing of a petition for condemnation or the institution of the acquisition of property, but instead limits the "ability of a redevelopment and housing authority ... to acquire property." View "PKO Ventures, LLC v. Norfolk Redev. & Housing Auth." on Justia Law

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The Clerk of the Circuit Court of the City of Fredericksburg, filed a putative class action in the federal district court against the Federal National Mortgage Association (Fannie Mae), and the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation (Freddie Mac), alleging that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac had failed to pay recordation taxes imposed by Code §§ 58.1-801 and -802. The federal court certified to the Virginia Supreme Court two questions: Under Virginia law, does a clerk of court possess statutory standing to initiate a lawsuit, in his official capacity, to enforce the real estate transfer tax; If a clerk of court does possess such authority, does Virginia law authorize him to do so as a class representative on behalf of all clerks of court throughout the Commonwealth? The court answered the first question “no” and did not address the second. The court characterized the clerk’s duties as ministerial and noted the statutory scheme for enforcement of the transfer tax. View "Small v. Fed. Nat'l Mortg. Ass'n" on Justia Law

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James and Christine Garner sought side and rear yard variances in connection with a proposed single family home on their property. The City Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) voted to approve the Garners' application and grant the variances. H. Curtiss Martin and Virginia Drewry, whose property adjoined the Garners' property to the west, appealed. The circuit court upheld the decision of the BZA. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the circuit court erred in its judgment because the BZA's decision was contrary to law. Specifically, the Court held that none of the conditions asserted by the Garners to justify their request for a variance satisfied the requirements of section 9.18(b) of the City Charter, which enumerates the conditions and justifications the property owner must show in order for the BZA to authorize a variance. View "Martin v. City of Alexandria" on Justia Law