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Court rules against developer in “Big Box” case

A developer who wanted to build an expected Wal-Mart store in Blacksburg will have to seek a special use permit, the Supreme Court of Virginia has ruled.

The developer argued that his rights to construct a large retail building became vested when he made proffers to obtain rezoning approval, regardless of a later change in the town’s subdivision ordinance to require a special use permit for such a large store.  The court rejected the “vested rights” claim.

“[W]hen vested rights accrue to a landowner as the result of a significant affirmative governmental act, the rights that vest are only those that the government affirmatively acts upon, and the evidence to support the claim to those rights must be clear, express, and unambiguous,” wrote opinion author Justice Lawrence L. Koontz.

The case is Hale v. Board of Zoning Appeals.

Blacksburg Mayor Ron Rordam said the decision reaffirms the town’s power to plan for its future. Several municipal advocacy groups filed a brief supporting the town’s position, reports The Roanoke Times.

By Peter Vieth

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