Having spent some of my youth in a small town, I appreciate how petty jealousies can sometimes be blown up into the most outrageous accusations but the latest allegation made against the Salvation Army and the Smalley’s is beyond bizarre.
The Smalleys do not now, never had and never will have, any interest in the Salvation Army subdivision. Such an accusation is defamatory not only of the Smalleys but, more importantly to my office, the Salvation Army.
The Salvation Army is a public charity that does outstanding work living out the Gospel’s command to “take care of the least of these.” The income from the sale of the lots will be used in those missions, just like the coins and bills placed into the red kettles this time each year.
To divert any of the assets of a public charity to the benefit of a private person, like the Smalleys, would be a felony known as “defalcation.” Does anybody in Clarke County truly believe that a nationally renown public charity with a spotless record would ever engage in such activity? If so, let them say so publicly (not in an anonymous comment) and bring proof.
As to the fascination with the address in Leesburg, the REMax office at that location closed 6 months ago and had no relationship to Mr. Steinmetz or any other member of the Clarke County Planning Commission or the Salvation Army.
That address is a 3 story office building. Mr. Showers office is on the third floor. He and I have been representing the Salvation Army for years.
The Salvation Army subdivision plat is not at that address. As Mr. Russell wrote Ms. Bouffant on Noverber 3, the plat, is and has always been, in Mr. Russell’s office and any member of the public is free to examine that plat. How Ms. Bouffault continues to say otherwise is a mystery.
If the public does look at the plat, they will see that, as required by State Code, the name and address of the owner is clearly identified in Notes 6 and 8: The Salvation Army. The Deed Book and page in the Clarke County land records of the Deed from Mrs. Casey to The Salvation Army is cited also. Those records are also open to the public.
Because of “Dillon’s Rule,” local government may not impose requirements on a landowner’s right to subdivide that have not been authorized by the General Assembly. Contrary to the belief of some, Clarke County is not “a kingdom unto itself.” It is, in the words of one judge, a mere administrative subdivision of the Commonwealth, subject to the limitations imposed on it by the General Assembly.
Since the General Assembly, through the State Code, already requires the ownership information on the plat that will be recorded in the County land records, why does Clarke County, unique among all the counties in Virginia, require that same information to be stated again in another document that is also recorded in the land records?
Why is the second question asked on the Consumer Disclosure statement the name and address of the registered agent of the owner? Only one kind of person looks for that information, someone like me: an attorney who’s getting ready to sue someone. That information is far more readily available at the State Corporation Commission website, by the way. Why is Clarke County trying to make it easier to sue landowners who are going through the subdivision process? Why is Clarke County providing possible litigants with potentially outdated information when accurate, up to date information is readily available at the State Corporation Commission website? Why is Clarke County enabling litigation against landowners going through the subdivision process when our Va. Supreme Court has said 3 time in the last 6 years that no one can sue over a subdivision decision except the applicant? Is the County trying to foment frivolous litigation against subdividers?
After a subdivision plat is approved and recorded, if a lot line is changed or street alignment shifted, the State Code requires the lot owners to come back to the Planning Commission and get its approval for that change.
Does Clarke County insist on approving any change in the identity of the registered agent of a landowner who has subdivided their property? The ordinance doesn’t say.
What if the telephone company changes it’s name; does Clarke County’s unique ordinance require the lot owners to come back to get a new Consumer Disclosure statement reviewed, approved and recorded? The ordinance doesn’t say.
When the lots are sold to an individual homeonwer or to a homebuilder, will the Consumer Disclousre statement have to be changed, approved and rerecorded? The ordinance doesn’t say.
Is the listing of the utility providers a promise (covenant, representation or warranty) that there will never be natural gas service in the Salvation Army subdivision? Can future homeowner’s sue the Salvation Army if the electric co-operative ever merges with another electric company? The ordinance doesn’t say.
The problem with localities freelancing on subdivision requirements is that it creates uncertainty which is why conforming to the State Code is the safest route for localities to follow in processing subdivisions.
No the County cannot tell the Salvation Army, or any other land owner, to take a hike. Subdividing your land is a right and local governments cannot prohibit subdivision nor can local government impose conditions on that right not authorized by the General Assembly.
After years of processing its subdivision plat, its time for the Salvation Army plat to be approved on December 2nd.
John W. Farrell, Esq.
McCandlish & Lillard, P.C.
11350 Random Hills Rd., Suite 500
Fairfax, Virginia 22030