Lawsuits Head to Hearing

Lawsuits Head to Hearing

Advertisement of approved Rural Policy Area amendment subject of first court hearing.

Nine of the 25 lawsuits filed against the county in January on behalf of landowners in western Loudoun will head to their first hearing Aug. 9. The lawsuits were filed in response to the Board of Supervisors' Dec. 5 decision to downzone the western two-thirds of the county.

The board approved a modified version of the plan it had been working on since 2005, after the Virginia Supreme Court overturned the 2003 zoning created by the previous board, over issues with the county's public notices on the zoning changes.

Twenty-five different lawsuits were filed Jan. 4 on behalf of small landowners, many of whom were cut off in the subdivision process when the board made its decision.

The final approved plan, which had been modified with amendments proposed by Supervisor Mick Staton (R-Sugarland Run), changed the rural west from zoning that allowed one home per three acres. Under Staton's amendments, landowners were allowed to cluster development at a density of one residential unit per five acres in the northern portion of the rural west and to cluster development in the southern portion at one unit per 15 acres. In addition, Staton's proposal included an option for landowners to divide in either 10- or five-acre parcels and removed the rezoning option.

ATTORNEY MARI M. Hommel said the hearing before Judge Thomas Horne in August would focus on only one claim in the lawsuits, the validity of the county's advertisement of the amendment in the Loudoun Times Mirror.

"It is partially an evidentiary hearing," Hommel said. "They have to prove that the Loudoun Times Mirror as eligible to have the advertisement in it."

The notices for the board's public hearing were published in the Loudoun Times Mirror in November.

"This hearing is truly procedural and technical in nature," Hommel said.

In 2003, the 200 lawsuits against the county were consolidated into one suit, but this time the cases will be judged separately.

"The nine Reed Smith clients said they wanted to consolidate their cases," Hommel said, "but the judge ruled he wanted them separated, at least for the time being."

Hommel added that there are other issues that attorneys for both sides are considering that could be scheduled for a hearing shortly.

No hearings have been set for the other 16 lawsuits filed on behalf of the western landowners, but they are still under active status. As of press time, calls to County Attorney John R. Roberts about the lawsuits were not returned.

— Erika Jacobson