By Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Redfields Development Corp. has filed a lawsuit against the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors for denying a request to expand the neighborhood.

The county wants the suit dismissed.
 
On Dec. 14, supervisors voted unanimously to deny a rezoning of two parcels just outside the county’s designated area. Many neighborhood residents spoke at meetings last year, telling Albemarle officials they had been promised the land would be kept as open space.
 

Map from the developer depicting the many phases of Redfields. The area requested for rezoning is in the southwest corner

Developer Gaylon Beights had sought to build 126 homes on a portion of the land.

 
“By reason of the unreasonable, illegal, invalid, discriminatory, confiscatory and unconstitutional restrictions made by the county and the board, the market value of the property has been greatly depreciated,” reads the lawsuit, which was filed in mid-January by Thomas Aldous Jr. of the Zobrist Law Group.
 
Redfields was originally rezoned in January 1990 and has been developed in several phases. The development has 441 lots today. At the time, Redfields representatives agreed that the final phase would not initially be developed and that the land would be labeled as open space, but not dedicated for that purpose.
 
During the rezoning, the land in question received the zoning designation of “planned residential development — open space,” referencing both the growth potential the developer now wants to utilize, and the protection sought by the neighbors.
 
The two parcels are not in the growth area , according to the county’s Comprehensive Plan . That fact led county staff to recommend denial of the most recent rezoning application.
 
In the lawsuit, Redfields attorneys maintain the county did not have the right to require a rezoning because the original action by supervisors allowed up to 656 homes, and the corporation claimed it has the right to build up to 215 more units.
 
“The county erred because the property was already zoned to permit residential dwellings and the zoning supersedes anything to the contrary in the Comprehensive Plan,” reads the developer’s lawsuit.
 
The suit alleges that the property is not required by law to be open space, that the county violated the Dillon Rule by requiring a discretionary decision by supervisors rather than a ministerial one by staff, and that the board’s action violated both the state and federal constitutions by taking away the corporation’s property rights.
 
The suit asks that if the court does not overrule the rezoning denial that Redfields should be awarded $8 million in damages.
 
The two parcels, which total about 58 acres, were assessed by the county at the beginning of 2012 for a value of just under $1 million.
 
Albemarle County responded Monday with a request to dismiss the case.
 
“[The Redfields Development Corp.] has reaped the financial rewards of its planned residential development zoning classification for 22 years,” reads the response. “Under PRD zoning, [Redfields] has been able to almost quadruple the maximum residential density that it otherwise would have been allowed.”
 
The county’s response claims that Albemarle has broad authority to establish zoning regulations and that Redfields has previously failed to appeal determinations of the zoning administrator that the land required a rezoning for further residential development.
 
“[Redfield’s] application requested permission to establish lots for residential development within an undeveloped area of the PRD that since 1990 has not been designated on RDC’s own plans for any specific type of development and for many years was identified on RDC’s plans as ‘open space.’”
 
The county response also argues that action by the supervisors did not deny the property rights of the Redfields Development Corp.
 
“A mere denial of a particular zoning application does not constitute unconstitutional deprivation of a property interest,” reads paragraph 32 of the response.
 
Rex Linville, a Redfields resident and staff member at the Piedmont Environmental Council , argued against the rezoning at the public hearing in December.
 
“My understanding of the project was that they got 656 units of residential development In the development portion of the property and there was this other portion that was rezoned as a condition as PRD open space,” Linville said at the time. “Clearly, everyone along the process thought this was open space so it would stand to reason it needs a rezoning.”
 
The case will be heard in Albemarle Circuit Court . A judge has not yet been assigned to hear the case and a hearing has not yet been scheduled.