Developer Sues After City Blocks Tacked-On Big Box Plans

<p>Developers who submitted a plan for a retail development and then added a big box store to the plan after it had been approved have sued the city of Blacksburg, Virginia, for instituting new planning rules that requires extra governmental approval.</p>
December 22, 2007, 7am PST | Nate Berg
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"After more than three hours of arguments from four attorneys Tuesday, Montgomery County Circuit Judge Bobby Turk wished the parties good health and a happy holiday season, then told them they would have to wait up to four more weeks for his ruling. The judge will decide whether Fairmount Properties of Ohio may build a 186,000-square-foot big-box store along Country Club Drive -- widely thought to be a Wal-Mart Supercenter -- without further review from Blacksburg Town Council."

"Rocking back and forth in his chair with glasses dangling from his lips, Turk presided over a courtroom populated by nearly a dozen attorneys and about 40 assorted activists, officials and developers. The judge spent considerable time questioning the town's actions."

"In a case where council grants a rezoning that says "you can do basically whatever you want" but then "changes their mind after money's been expended on the plan ... what protects the landowner?" Turk asked town council attorney Greg Haley."

"The big-box store is part of a 40-acre retail revitalization project planned along South Main Street. Grading for the project has started, turning a strip of blighted businesses into a red clay moonscape at the town's southern gateway. Site plans for a part of the project that does not include the big-box store have been approved by town staff."

"The big-box saga began in 2006 when council, on a 5-2 vote, approved a broad "general commercial" rezoning that made way for Fairmount's project. At the time, Fairmount principal Adam Fishman said the development would include retail and residential buildings. But months later, when developers submitted plans that showed a big-box store on part of the property that had been slated for residential development, the council hastily passed Ordinance 1450. That ordinance requires an extra layer of governmental review before any retail building larger than 80,000 square feet can be built in the town limits."

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Published on Wednesday, December 19, 2007 in The Roanoke Times
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