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Wednesday, May 25, 2022
ArlingtonUpdate: Preservation bills dead for 2022

Update: Preservation bills dead for 2022

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[Updated to reflect Feb. 14 action in the state Senate.]

Advocates of historic-preservation legislation patroned by two Northern Virginia lawmakers will have to wait until 2023 to try and win enactment.

The House of Delegates Committee on Counties, Cities and Towns voted Feb. 11 to delay final consideration of legislation patroned by Del. Hope (D-Arlington) to next year.

A subcommittee earlier had proposed that the measure be shifted to the House Committee on Courts of Justice to evaluate constitutional issues raised in the measure. But that committee was not slated to meet again in time to consider the bill and move it to a floor vote during the 2022 session, so “continuing” the bill to 2023 keeps it alive, albeit in a dormant state.

A companion measure, patroned by state Sen. Chap Petersen (D-Fairfax-Vienna), on Feb. 14 was killed by the Senate Committee on Judiciary, effectively ending consideration of the proposal in Richmond for 2022.
The bills recommended 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 the matter has been made.

As filed, they also would have clarified who, beyond the property owner, was entitled to appeal a governing body’s decision on historic status to the Circuit Court.

The subcommittee of the Counties, Cities and Towns committee, however, voted to strip that part of the proposal out of Hope’s version, with some committee Republicans voicing concern that it potentially could enable too many people to launch court challenges and might be an unconstitutional attack on the rights of property owners.

The bills are an outgrowth of the 2020-21 battle over the future of the Rouse (Febrey-Lothrop) estate on Wilson Boulevard in Arlington, which was razed after a contentious local battle between the property owner and preservation advocates that saw the Arlington government caught in the middle.

Hope’s bill is HB 1201; Petersen’s bill is SB 206.

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