Loudoun County Courts

The Loudoun County Courthouse

A Loudoun County Circuit Court judge last month reversed a land use authority’s decision and dismissed the Graydon Manor LLC’s appeal after failing to provide evidence they were aggrieved by the determination, according to court records.

But a motion filed by counsel representing Graydon Manor raises more objections.

On April 21, Circuit Court Judge James Fisher concluded a four-day case that involved the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors and the business, which spanned for more than three years, the records state.

In 2018, the business was seeking a determination from the county towards constructing a co-housing development on the Graydon Manor property west of Leesburg on 131 acres. The property was home to a children’s psychiatric hospital and treatment center until 2016.

Specifically, records stated that Graydon Manor was seeking a zoning permit for the project and for the county to respond to 28 questions about the zoning ordinance.

However, in the process of seeking interpretations for the proposed plan, the business claimed that a change to land use regulations was initiated by the Board of Supervisors and ultimately prohibited the number of homes that could be constructed per acre, according to court records.

In 2019, Graydon Manor requested the court review and reverse the decision of the Board of Zoning Appeals.

Nick Albu and Grayson Hanes, co-counsel for Graydon Manor, wrote in the petition that an “expressly permitted by-right use in the AR-1 district, such as co-housing, is not a ‘loophole’ in the zoning ordinance,” the records states. “It is a development right that cannot be arbitrarily and capriciously changed by the local governing body.”

The business claimed that the county’s decision was specifically against the proposed project and “misinformed the public” that the zoning ordinance amendment was simply to “clean up some language and that residential density would not be impacted by the change.”

Graydon Manor’s plan of development was eventually denied by the zoning administrator and appeal to the Board of Zoning appeals failed in 2018 and 2019 respectively, records state.

The business described the Board of Zoning Appeals decision as “plainly wrong, not supported by evidence and in violation of the plain language of the ‘unambiguous’ zoning ordinance,” the records state.

Fisher said the petitioner did not challenge eight of the nine comments as to why the permit application was not in conformity with the law.

He also said while the determination letter references the Graydon Manor property, it was nothing more than “a request for an abstract advisory opinion of law” or “an anticipatory request for admissions as to legal principals.”

No application was pending for a particular land use action or decision at the time for an opinion, Fisher said.

The judge said that the Board of Zoning Appeals “committed error” in considering a county planner’s proposed development determination because of “insufficient evidence that the petitioner was aggrieved as to any specific findings or determination that affected any property rights.”

Counsel filed a motion that disputed the final draft order, in which the county was ordered to prepare by the judge. Graydon Manor’s counsel wrote that the proposed order re-writes the judge’s ruling and bench order.

Additionally, counsel claimed that the court did not “vacate” the decision of the board or zoning appeals, and did not decide all matters at issue between the parties.

County Attorney Leo Rogers said in a prepared statement the zoning administrator for more than three years was the subject of personal attacks, including claims by the petitioner that the administrator “manufactured restrictions that do not exist in the zoning ordinance in order to improperly deny the application.”

“The county maintains its staff conducted a thorough and appropriate review of the petitioner’s original application, and that the determination that the proposed development is not permitted by the county’s zoning ordinance is correct,” Rogers said in the statement.

Counsel for Graydon Manor told the Times-Mirror in an email his client intends to pursue all avenues to protect its property rights and doubles down that the property was targeted by the county.

“The evidence confirmed the Zoning Administrator unlawfully denied Graydon Manor’s rights under the zoning ordinance and, at the same time, tried to change the Zoning Ordinance to create an after-the-fact justification for the unlawful denial,” Albu wrote. “Targeting Loudoun County property owners in this matter is unlawful, and it is not good zoning practice. Graydon Manor, like all other property owners in Loudoun County, has rights.”

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