Posted by: Patricia Salkin | July 16, 2009

Court Upholds Fine of $100 Per Day Property was not in Compliance with Consent Decree

The zoning administrator issued a notice of violation to the Vereens for violating the zoning ordinance by keeping on their property inoperable vehicles, tires, trailers, boats , a mobile home and other debris. After failing to comply with the ordinance for four months, the County sought a court declaration that the property was a prohibited “junk yard” and also sought an injunction requiring removal of the items from the property. The parties stipulated to a settlement consent decree in June 2007 which provided that the Vereens would bring their property into compliance with the zoning within sixty days. The parties further agreed that in the event of noncompliance, the Vereens would pay to the county a fine of $100 per day for every day that the Court finds them in violation, on top of any fine imposed by the Court for contempt. The consent decree prohibited the Vereens from using the property as a junkyard in the future, and it provided that the parties agreed that the terms of the decree were reasonable that that they would not modified without the written agreement of the parties.

 At the request of the Vereens, the County granted them an additional 30 days to comply with the decree, which the Vereens did not meet. Four months later the County filed an action seeking compliance as well as imposition of the $100 per day fine.  Eventually, the Vereens did comply but the County sought fines in the amount of $20,600 representing the $100 per day that the Vereens were not in compliance with the terms of the consent decree. The Circuit Court reduced the fine to $3,500 and the County appealed, asserting that the Court lacked authority to amend the terms of the consent decree.    

The Virginia Supreme Court held that the circuit court erred in fixing fines payable in an amount less than the rate specified in a consent decree previously endorsed by the affected property owners and the county, and entered by the court. The Court reversed the judgment of the circuit court entered final judgment in favor of the county in the amount of $20,600.

McLane v. Vereen, 2009 WL 1566926 (Va. 6/4/2009).

The opinion can be accessed at:

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