This Act protects property owners from localities that seek to alter past zoning decisions by enacting new zoning ordinances.
For example, if a structure was constructed in accordance with a local government building permit, and the locality issued a certificate of occupancy or use permit, a later zoning ordinance may not remove it for nonconformity with the new ordinance. It also applies to structures on which an owner has paid taxes to the locality for more than 15 years.
Of course, the question remains what happens if the “building permit” was forced on the HELPLESS citizens by a local, say, town, government to the detriment of the taxpayers? Clearly, the state of Virginia made sure, that the government always has the upper hand, no matter how unfair or unjust the decision.
Such was the case of the Mormon Church in Potomac Crossing in Leesburg, Virginia. There was literally NOTHING that the Home Owners could do against the Town government of Kristen Umstattd, Leesburg mayor, once the Town made the decision to rezone and sell a lot to the Mormon Church, a lot that was supposed to be used originally for the tennis courts and play grounds for children.
The Town of Leesburg very unwisely zoned a small lot in the middle of a residential area as COMMERCIAL by PREVIOUS Town Council (1988, no need existed for the commercial area, pure politics), and when opposed by the Home Owners, The Town rezoned the lot and gingerly sold it to the Mormon Church in 2002 without communicating the sale to the Home Owners. The Town contacted the adjacent 92 properties – minimum required by the law. Over 800 HO were never contacted by The Town or the HOA.
To make it worse, many new Home Buyers were issued HOA documents that did not have the church marked on the map, even though an elementary school nearby was marked, long after the rezoning and sale of the lot. The sold lot was “vacant” for many years and many new buyers were told it was a common area. Indeed, many original Home Owners believed the lot was “common area” until one beautiful day in March 2008 they noticed bulldozers working on the lot.
My point is that The Vested Rights Reform looks good on the surface and it appears to be Property Owner friendly, but in reality, like anything else in life, it can be misused and even abused by government(s) and special interest groups.
SOURCE: Virginia Association of REALTORS
NOTE: The interpretation of this legislature and comment is my personal, and is not a reflection on Keller Williams Realty or Virginia Association of REALTORS