The latest episode in the never ending soap opera As the Abbey Turns unfolded as Goochland’s Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) met Monday May 13 to hear arguments concerning its jurisdiction to hear an appeal of a plan of development filed by opponents of the relocation of Benedictine High School to property on the south side of River Road adjacent to Rt. 288. At issue is also whether the appellants, neighbors of the subject property, have any standing to file an appeal.
Regardless of the outcome of the latest salvo in the battle to prevent the relocation of the century old educational institution, the lawyers will win.
Following about 90 minutes of mind numbing arguments about exactly what laws governing the situation mean, rather than what they say, the BZA met with its counsel in closed session for a bit more than an hour. Returning to open session, all four BZA members—there is a vacancy for the District 5 representative—approved a motion to reconvene on June 17 at 5 p.m. to hear specifics of the appeal, deferring a decision on standing and jurisdiction.
At an April 29 organizational meeting, BZA members decided to hear the arguments for jurisdiction and standing separately from specifics to avoid the expense of preparing briefs that might not be needed.
After the first round, however, the BZA may well have determined that the particulars in the argument could play a part in standing and jurisdiction determinations and opted to hear the whole thing.
The appellants’ contentions include allegations that the county failed to investigate the downstream impact of storm water runoff from anticipated road improvements. They believe that the increased force of the runoff will damage their property.
Land use disputes are often emotional and complex, and this case is no exception. The citizens who comprise the BZA: Dr. Richard Carchman, District 1; chair Chris Williams, District 2; Dr. Harriet “Dee” Phillips, District 3; and Yasmine Hamad, District 4 seem intent on making a sound decision based on facts.
Hamad pointed out that “not everyone is always happy with the outcome of land use decisions. The ultimate remedy is at the polls.” She also asked for case law from other jurisdictions in similar situations. “I want to be able to hear both sides to offer a fair opinion,” she said.
Attorneys for Benedictine and the county contended that the appellants, neighbors of the property, have no standing to appeal approval of a plan of development because they are not aggrieved parties.
Pat McSweeney, counsel for the appellants, argued that the appeal is the only route open to the neighbors to challenge the zoning decision. (In January 2012, Goochland Circuit Court Judge Timothy K. Sanner dismissed a challenge to the granting of a conditional use permit for operation of the school on the grounds that there were no injured parties.)
There were also differing opinions if appropriate filing deadlines and fee payments were met.
Darvin Satterwhite, representing Benedictine in the matter contended that McSweeney’s argument disagreed with decisions handed down by the Virginia Supreme Court. McSweeney rebutted arguments about specific code sections by stating “… that can’t be what the General Assembly intended.”
So, will this latest maneuver prevent Benedictine from opening at the start of the next school year? Will this appeal prevent the county from issuing a certificate of occupancy? Stay tuned for the next episode.