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Decision Expected in June on Columbia Baptist Vs. City of F.C. Case at Virginia Supreme Court

Following the completion of oral arguments last week, a decision by the Virginia Supreme Court is expected in early June concerning the lawsuit brought by the Columbia Baptist Church of Falls Church against the City of Falls Church, its City Council and its Planning Commission.

The case grew out of a decision by the F.C. Planning Commission to deny a request by the church to consolidate seven lots that it owns into a single lot at Maple Avenue and N. Washington Street. The denial came in November 2007 because the church’s plan did not preserve three of the lots that contain historic homes built prior to 1910, and therefore it violated the City’s Historic Conservation Ordinance.

Three trustees of Columbia Baptist, Katherine E. James, T. David Stoner and Brent Walker, then filed a lawsuit against the City in the Arlington County Circuit Court, seeking a reversal of the Planning Commission’s decision. However, when the trial commenced in October 2008, Judge William T. Newman, Jr., dismissed the lawsuit with prejudice because, he stated, Columbia Baptist failed to satisfy its burden of proof to show that the Planning Commission denial was “not properly based on the applicable ordinances or was arbitrary and capricious.”

Columbia Baptist then filed an appeal to the Virginia Supreme Court, and the case was heard last week. There are no requests for monetary damages in the case.