Posted by: Patricia Salkin | July 12, 2012

VA Supreme Court Holds Future Expectations Regarding Zoning Do Not Create Vested Rights

In 1987 High Point Associates applied to rezone 38.37 acres of land, which was adopted by the town in the High Point Rezoning Ordinance. The rezoning included a number of conditions, one which included a cut-through roadway, Tolbert Lane. In 1992 Long Lane Associates purchased 5.3 acres subdivided from the original 38.37 acres and built a commercial building on its parcel. American Red Cross and Cornerstone purchased the remaining subdivided parcels.

In 2008 Cornerstone filed three applications to amend the zoning and conditions affecting its property in order to construct a church. Cornerstone requested an amendment to remove a section of Tolbert Lane not yet built, a change in the zoning district and a special exception to allow it to operate a daycare center on the premises. The town approved all of Cornerstone’s requests and Long Lane argues that the town could not amend the conditions required by the Rezoning Ordinance without consent of all the owners of property originally included in the rezoning.

The Circuit Court found that Long Lane had a vested right to the completion of Tolbert Lane and ruled that Cornerstone’s request for rezoning was void and of no effect. The Supreme disagreed and sided with the Town’s decision to amend the ordinance. The Court reasoned that although a landowner can have a right to continue in an existing use even after the governing body changes the zoning classification, when a landowner only has a future expectation that he will be allowed to develop his property in accord with its current classification, there is no vested property right in the continuation of the land’s existing zoning status. Future expectations regarding zoning do not create a vested property rights.

Furthermore, a landowner may only acquire a vested right as to use of his own property, not to a neighboring property, even where the property was subdivided from a single parcel. Also, the Leesburg Town Council had the authority to amend the High Point Rezoning Ordinance, and in doing so took into consideration the effect the zoning legislation would have on the citizens of the town. Long Lane was able to raise any concerns to the planning commission prior to the town approving Cornerstone’s application. Long Lane had no vested right to deprive the Town of its legislative authority to enact zoning ordinances.

Town of Leesburg v. Long Lane Associates Limited Partnership, 2012 WL 2039361 (VA 6/7/2012)

The opinion can be accessed at:


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