Virginia Supreme Court Upholds F.C.’s Substandard Lot Height Restriction Law

The Virginia Supreme Court ruled in favor of the City of Falls Church last week against Anton E.B. Schefer, the owner of 12 lots in the City, upholding the City’s right to place height restrictions on homes on substandard lots. The opinion stated that localities have the right to impose such restrictions within the same zoning district, as long as all substandard lots are treated uniformly.

Schefer, who owns 12 substandard lots at 610 Fulton Ave., 309 Pennsylvania Ave. and 306 N. Lee, filed a suit in Arlington Circuit Court in early 2007 claiming that a substandard lot height limit ordinance passed by the Falls Church City Council in December 2006 was “invalid under the Virginia enabling authority because it treated substandard lots differently than standard lots.” Substandard lots are defined as being less than 7,500 square feet. The Arlington Court ruled in Falls Church’s favor, and Shefer then appealed to the Virginia Supreme Court.

The City’s ordinance applies a formula for calculating the height limit of buildings on substandard lots, based on the size of the lot. The smaller the lot, the lower the height limit, within a range of 35 to 25 feet.