Public Comments for: HB616 - Zoning appeals, board of; funding.
Last Name: Pasanello Locality: HAYMARKET

Dear Honorable Members, Written comments submitted to the committee on 2/2/22 in support of HB 616 remain. Respectfully, Joe Pasanello

Last Name: Chamberlin Locality: Prince William County

Comments Document

Honorable members, Please find attached a pdf of my written comments in support of HB616 and the rationale for adoption. Paul Chamberlin

Last Name: Pasanello Locality: Haymarket

Honorable members of the House Counties, Cities and Towns Subcommittee: Subcommittee #2: My name is Joseph Pasanello, and I am a member of the Prince William County Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA), as well as a councilmember in the Town of Haymarket. I am writing today in support of HB 616, which proposes to amend and reenact §15.2-2308, Boards of zoning appeals to be created; membership, organization, etc., paragraph D. of the Code of Virginia. §15.2-2308, A. of the enabling legislation states that “every locality that has enacted or enacts a zoning ordinance pursuant to this chapter or prior enabling laws shall establish a board of zoning appeals…” Establishing a board of zoning appeals is clearly a requirement by which funding is necessarily appropriated to properly establish, support, and maintain BZA operations. It is in the interest of governing bodies to do so to ensure conscientious decisions be rendered that reflect the facts and the law, while ensuring that the contending parties receive fair and impartial hearings as to matters in dispute. The problem is there are times when independent legal counsel is necessary beyond the current structure in place (either supported by the code or by ad hoc arrangements). While §15.2-1542 of the Code of Virginia provides for county, city, or town attorneys to be appointed to offer legal advice to boards, such as BZAs, that may not always be possible especially when the governing body’s attorney is acting as a contending party in a case before the BZA. There are also times when a board member may seek advice as to conflict of interests related to a case but cannot rely on the governing body’s attorney because of the potential for conflicts. In my experience this has happened on occasion. At issue is §15.2-2308, D. of the enabling legislation, specifically the way it is currently written, which may lead to misinterpretation and, in my experience, a lack of support for independent legal counsel. The language as proposed is a more affirmative declaration not subject to interpretation and clarifies the governing body to do what is intended by the enabling legislation, i.e., to fund services, including legal counsel, while placing guardrails as a check on expenditures and maintaining budgetary control. In PWC we manage mostly appeals and variances. Meetings are scheduled monthly but frequently convene less than scheduled. Our need for independent legal counsel is also demonstrably less than larger localities and, in my estimation, does not exceed 24 hours per annum. A budget contingency does not mean all funds will be expended; rather, funds are available only if needed. Having access to independent legal counsel at this level of need could avert costly litigation related to circuit court appeals and the risk should not be ignored by governing bodies. Amending the code by inserting that a governing body shall appropriate necessary funds in support of services and demonstrated needs, such as advice from independent legal counsel, clarifies the responsibility and supports the proper functioning of BZAs in the interest of all parties. Thank you for your consideration.

End of Comments