When the General Assembly convenes in January 2023, there will be 166 leftovers from 2022 awaiting action.
One of them is near and dear to the heart of local preservationists, which gives them a year to regroup and do some lobbying for their cause.
A measure by Del. Patrick Hope (D-Arlington) to provide preservation advocates with more of a voice in the process of preserving historic buildings was left in limbo during the 2022 General Assembly session. That was bad news for those who supported it, but at least provides hope for the next year.
Hope’s bill proposed several changes to the state’s historic-preservation laws, most notably prohibiting a local government from permitting the razing of a proposed historic property until 30 days after a final decision on historic status has been made.
As was found during the 2020-21 battle over the future of the Rouse estate on Wilson Boulevard, current law sets up something of a footrace between preservationists seeking to declare a property historic and the property owner seeking to redevelop it.
In the case of the Rouse property (also known as the Febrey-Lothrop estate), the property owner won, receiving a permit to bulldoze the century-plus-old main house and outbuildings before Arlington County Board members acted on the request of a local resident to confer historic status on some or all of the parcel. By the time the matter got to County Board members, most of the lot had been cleared.
During a House of Delegates subcommittee hearing on Hope’s bill as part of the 2022 session, it appeared a number of delegates had a hard time wrapping their heads around what the bill actually proposed. While that is one reason it was held over to 2023, it may also provide supporters the chance to do some outreach to legislators about the intent.
Hope’s bill – HB 1210 – also would permit a wider array of entities to appeal a governing body’s decision on historic status to the Circuit Court in that locality, including any local resident who spoke during public hearings on the matter.
Current law is somewhat nebulous, but appears to allow the localities themselves to decide who can appeal decisions on historic status.
Of the 2,141 bills introduced during the 2022 General Assembly session (1,364 in the House of Delegates, 777 in the Senate), about 8 percent were held over until 2023. Legislators approved an additional 842 bills and rejected the rest.
Hope, the longest serving of Arlington’s House of Delegates contingent, gained a modicum of political immortality during the session, as a bill he patroned related to Arlington’s police-auditor post became the first measure vetoed by Gov. Youngkin. And not simply vetoed, but slammed by the governor as an affront to public-safety personnel, which the patron and county officials said was decidedly not the intent.