Virginia Supreme Court Overturns Controversial Lewinsville Park Decision

The Supreme Court of Virginia today reversed a lower court decision that has allowed Fairfax County, through an arrangement with McLean Youth Soccer, to host Marymount University soccer and lacrosse games at  Lewinsville Park in McLean.

The Arlington-based university had agreed to split with the soccer group the cost of building and maintaining the field, the county's first public all-weather artificial turf field, in return for playing time for their NCAA home games. The arrangement had angered members of the West Lewinville Heights Citizen's Association who claimed that their neighborhood park was being transformed into a collegiate athletic facility.

In its decision, the Supreme Court held that county officials were late in filing their petition to appeal a 2003 decision by the county board of zoning appeals. That decision, which upheld the homeowners association position, said that agreement between the university and the soccer group violated the county's public use requirements. The judgment of the board of zoning appeals was reversed in a circuit court ruling last year.

While making its ruling, the Supreme Court did not examine the merits of the county's argument -- that Marymount's use was public use because the field was still owned by the Fairfax County Park Authority -- but instead concluded that the circuit court ruling by judge Dennis J. Smith was incorrect because the county missed a 30-day deadline to appeal the board of zoning appeals decision.

Attorneys for the county argued that they had filed their appeals within 30 days of the Sept. 24, 2003 filing of the board of zoning appeals decision. But the Supreme Court held that the 30 day period to appeal had actually begun eight days earlier with the Sept. 16 vote of the board on the matter, rather than with the decision's filing.

County officials had expressed concern that a decision against the county in the matter could negatively impact their ability to make future public-private arrangements for the benefit of the county's citizens.

The Supreme Court decision would appear to prevent Marymount's continuing use of the field, barring the passage of a special exception or special use permit by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors.

By  |  September 16, 2005; 4:43 PM ET  | Category:  Colleges and Universities , Government , Neighborhoods , Parks and Recreation , Politics
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