The Old Town North Small Area Plan Advisory Group will meet on Wednesday, December 14, 2016 and a community meeting will be held the following day December 15, 2016. Staff has begun releasing draft chapters of the revised small area plan to the Advisory Group. The City intends to send the new small area plan to Planning Commission and City Council for approval in March of 2017. Property owners in Old Town North should review these drafts chapters now to protect their interests. More information can be found here: https://www.alexandriava.gov/planning/info/default.aspx?id=86032

The North Potomac Yard Small Area Plan Advisory Group, established to allow for community engagement of proposed amendments to the 2010 North Potomac Yard Small Area Plan, will meet on January 31, 2017 to discuss transportation. The Advisory Group has been meeting since April 2016 to discuss topics such as land use, open space, housing, etc. in the context of proposed amendments to facilitate the redevelopment of the Hoyts theater site east of Potomac Avenue. Future Advisory Group meetings are scheduled to take place on February 13th and March 20th.  The Advisory Group will continue discussing the amendments until March of 2017 when a working draft of the small area plan amendments will be available. The amendments to the small area plan will be sent to Planning Commission and City Council for approval in May or June 2017. More information can be found here: https://www.alexandriava.gov/PotomacYardPlan


In 2010, Alexandria Renew Enterprises needed land for expansion of its state-of-the-art wastewater treatment facility. They already owned a vacant two acre parcel, but this land was cut off from the rest of the facility and was planned for residential use.  The only land meeting Alexandria Renew’s needs was a ten-acre former Go-Kart track already planned for high-density mixed use development.

After a long and difficult condemnation case, Alexandria Renew was forced to pay $36 million for the ten-acre tract of adjacent land. The price tag was so high because the parcel was already zoned for 512,000 SF of office and 170,000 SF of residential apartments, but Alexandria Renew needed the land for industrial-type use.  The solution: transfer of development rights.

Working with a team of McGuireWoods lawyers, the public authority known as Alexandria Renew crafted a complicated plan to sell the development rights for private development to JM Zell Partners and Alder Branch Realty. Key to the deal was an innovative site plan that concealed the wastewater treatment uses under a soccer field.  The soccer field merges with an elevated landscape extending onto the private land and covering several levels of above-ground parking.  Because Alexandria Renew is exempt from real estate taxes, the transfer puts the development rights back on the City tax rolls.

Alexandria Renew negotiated the sale of the development rights for 50% of the fair market value if the sale were to include the land along with the development rights. They also agreed to sell the surplus two-acre parcel that could not be used for wastewater treatment. When the final closing occurs in 2020, the public authority will have received up to $32 million from the private development.  In the meantime, the project continues to win national engineering and design awards and the public has begun to enjoy a new soccer field.

A new Virginia State statute governing what proffers local governments may and may not require of residential developers is set to become effective July 01, 2016. The bill injects a significant amount of legal uncertainty into the proffer process and is highly likely to make the proffer negotiation process even more difficult to navigate as parties attempt to discern the legal significance of the new statute. Fortunately, the statute includes a grandfather clause, meaning it will not apply to any rezoning applications filed prior to July 01, 2016. McGuireWoods has confirmed with Fairfax County staff that they will not be applying the statute’s rules to such applications. For this reason, we strongly recommend property owners considering redevelopment in the medium to near term call us immediately to avoid the ramifications of this new statute.

Last week Governor McAuliffe signed into law a bill adopted by the Virginia General Assembly that will impact the permitted substance of proffered conditions throughout the Commonwealth of Virginia – particularly as related to projects with a residential component.  The new law has the potential to significantly affect the legal positions of landowners and developers and creates new rules for all pending and contemplated proffered land use projects.  In our judgment the new law creates risks, offers some opportunities and raises important procedural considerations for proffered rezonings.  There are also nuanced exceptions to the law that may be applicable in urban or transit oriented areas of many NOVA localities.  In the coming weeks, we expect the localities to issue initial statements and positions concerning their view of the nature and extent of such exceptions.

We and our affiliated McGuireWoods Consulting legislative team have carefully followed the development of this law through the entire legislative process.  Based on our extensive experience with legislation of this type and our well-developed relationships with regulators and decision makers in all of the northern Virginia counties, cities and towns, we have a number of strategic recommendations for clients that have pending or contemplated land use applications.   Please feel free to contact any member of our land use team for further information



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When you begin the process of strategizing a potential investment property you may consider many factors including the zoning classification.  Is it zoned commercial, residential or industrial?  What are the height and density constraints?  What uses are permitted by-right versus by special permit?  You may have a vision for the parcel that is dependent on the property’s zoning classification.  However, generally speaking, you don’t have a right to the land’s current zoning classification.  A locality can amend the zoning ordinance at any time and you may be stuck with the new classification unless you have vested rights in the land use.  Which begs the question: how do your rights become vested? Continue Reading Your Property, Your (Vested) Rights?

Indigo Hotel ShipThe recent excavation of an 18th Century Warehouse and Buried Ship on the Alexandria Waterfront received excited coverage by NBC News and The Washington Post.  These finds are fascinating and will contribute to Alexandria’s already rich cultural history.  But the press coverage largely overlooked the credit due to the real estate developer, Carr Hospitality.


Archeology is expensive and time-consuming. Under Alexandria’s Archeological Protection Code, developers have been required since 1989 to plan for and pay for archeology as part of developing property in the City. Most sites don’t contain the treasure-trove attracting national attention at the Indigo Hotel site, but many developers have paid for extensive documentary research and digs that record the archeological record at sites they are re-developing.  Some developers have spent up to and exceeding $ One Million on archeology, not counting the cost of delay to their projects.


When I negotiated with the City Attorney on the proposed legislation twenty-five years ago, the quid pro quo for developers was a predictable process, quick review by the City, and assurance that archeology would never prohibit development. It is expensive but, overall, the legislation has worked.  The history and pre-history buried in the ground is only revealed when it is excavated.  By paying for the archeology needed to record this information and preserve the artifacts, development has contributed much to our cultural heritage.  So next time you read about an exciting archeological find in the City, you can probably thank a developer.

On November 14, 2015, the City Council approved of the Eisenhower West Small Area Plan.  The primary objective of the new Plan is to utilize the capacity of the underserved Van Dorn Metro Station as a catalyst for economic development along Eisenhower Avenue.  Light industrial uses are currently the dominant land use within the Plan area with scattered residential and office sites.  In order to incentivize redevelopment, the Plan recommends significantly more development density than is permitted under existing zoning and acknowledges that residential development will likely be the primary use.

The Plan recommends building heights of up to 20 stories within a 1/4 mile of the Metro Station; 10-15 stories within a 1/2 mile of the Metro Station; up to 10 stories outside the 1/2 mile along Eisenhower Avenue and 5-7 stories outside the 1/2 mile along South Pickett Street.  While the Plan designates the properties closest to the Metro Station as reserved for office uses, significant flexibility is provided within the Plan for a mix of uses outside of the 1/4 mile radius.  The Plan proposes three possible alignments for a multimodal bridge to connect South Pickett Street to Eisenhower Avenue east of Van Dorn Street and west of Victory Center.  If all of the transportation improvements in the Plan are constructed, the Plan can accommodate up to 9.3 million square feet of new development.

The link to the Plan is available at http://www.alexandriava.gov/EisenhowerWest