On January 10, Judge Harrison Braxton of the Stafford County Circuit Court issued his ruling on a suit filed by Stafford Lakes LP, the owners of Crow’s Nest. Judge Braxton granted the developers’ request to prohibit the Stafford County Board of Zoning Appeals from hearing an appeal regarding the compliance of the Crow’s Nest development plan with the zoning ordinance.

More importantly, in an unexpected victory for the efforts to protect the natural resources on the peninsula, the judge concluded that the Planning Commission has the authority to determine the compliance of the plan with the zoning ordinance. The judge also found that it is the “duty” of the County Attorney to advise the Planning Commission about the “adequacy” (compliance) of the plan. Finally, the judge stated that the time spent in litigation does not count towards the 60-day time period in which the Planning Commission must act on the plan.

What does all this mean? It will take some time to fully understand the ruling, but it appears that this means that the Planning Commission should consider zoning ordinances when reviewing a plan; that the County Attorney has a new role in determining compliance; and that the Planning Commission will have until early March to make a decision about the Crow’s Nest plan. The judge only addressed procedural issues. His ruling did not evaluate the content of the plan.

The developers’ suit was in response to an appeal to the Stafford County Board of Zoning Appeals filed by Attorney David Bailey. That action appealed the Planning Director’s decision that the Crow’s Nest plan is in compliance with Stafford County’s zoning ordinance. (Read the appeal, the developers’ lawsuit, and Attorney Bailey’s response to it.) The parties in the suit have 30 days to file a notice of intent to appeal to the Virginia Supreme Court.

The Crow’s Nest Defense Fund, LLC retained Attorney David Bailey to assist with their efforts to protect the natural and cultural resources on the Crow’s Nest peninsula. The Defense Fund is a non-profit organization, and needs your financial support to continue this critical legal effort. Please send tax-deductible contributions to: Crow’s Nest Defense Fund, LLC, PO Box 102, Brooke, VA 22430.