Construction Law Insights

Cacheris v. City Council of Alexandria, 2019 Va. Cir. LEXIS 443 (Cir. Ct. City of Alexandria Aug. 13, 2019)

The Alexandria School Board (“School Board”) decided that the City of Alexandria’s (“City”) T.C. Williams High School’s (“School”) athletic stadium needed improvement, including the addition of stadium lighting and a new speaker system. The City Council of the City of Alexandria (“City Council”) approved a Development Special use Permit (“DSUP”) that allowed the School Board to install and use the lighting and speaker systems. The Zoning Ordinance approval process mandated that the City Council, acting upon the DSUP, consider the effects of the improvements on neighboring properties and act to minimize any adverse effects the use provided for in the DSUP may have on those properties. Homeowners with properties adjacent to the stadium sought declaratory and injunctive relief to challenge the granting of the DSUP, arguing that the Council failed to consider the factors set forth in the Zoning Ordinance that provide for the protection of neighboring properties. The defendants demurred.

First, the Court held that the homeowners had standing because (1) they alleged that their properties are adjacent to the stadium improvements and (2) they alleged that their property values will decrease if the stadium improvements are installed. Next, the Court found that the City Council’s actions were not void as a matter of law. Next, the Court held that the City Council’s failure to make specific findings with respect to consideration of the standards or factors set forth in the Zoning Ordinance was not fatal to the DSUP, but the consideration of such would be left to a hearing on the merits.

Because a land use challenge is brought against a local governing body, the Court dismissed the Planning Commission and the City because they did not meet the definition of a local governing body, which is a distinct legal entity authorized by Title 15.2 to exercise the statutory power of the locality. The School Board, however, was a proper party because it was the applicant for, and recipient of, the DSUP. Finally, the Court found that the Homeowner’s Amended Complaint stated a claim for relief predicated upon the ground that the City Council in granting the DSUP acted unreasonably, arbitrarily, and capriciously as a matter of fact.

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