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Lawsuit to stop Westwood Tract development dismissed

RICHMOND, Va. – A lawsuit to stop the Westwood Tract development in Richmond’s Ginter Park neighborhood was dismissed Monday by a Richmond Circuit Court judge.

The lawsuit was filed by residents of Richmond’s Northside Ginter Park and Sherwood Park neighborhoods.

The residents wanted to stop a 301-unit suburban style apartment project which they said violates decades-old zoning.

The project is known as the Canopy at Ginter Park, on the Westwood Tract, across Brook Road from Union Presbyterian Seminary, who owns the 15-acres where the complex will be built.

The suit claims that the city has misstated the zoning on the tract, which was enacted in 1953 to permit student housing but to prohibit commercial residential development. The Northside residents cite 1953 zoning documents, which the city claimed were not available when they gave permission for the massive project.

”We are pleased with the judge’s ruling and look forward to continuing our project,” Seminary President Dr. Brian Blount said in a statement.

In the judge’s opinion letter, he said the residents should have appealed the building permits before filing a lawsuit.

“This Court FINDS that the “mandatory appeal” language of Lilly requires an exhaustion of administrative remedies prior to invoking any rights under Va. Code 15.2-2312. In this case, that administrative remedy was an appeal of the April 11, 2017 issuance of the building permits to the Board of Zoning Appeals pursuant to Va. Code 15.2-2311. The Plaintiffs had 30 days from the issuance (on April 11, 2017) to note said appeal, and yet within that 30 day period Plaintiffs chose instead to file this lawsuit pursuant to Va. Code 15.2-2313. This was not an exhaustion of their administrative remedies, but was essentially an end-run around that mandatory administrative appeal. As such, the Plantiff’s have failed to exhaust their administrative remedies and the Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss is hereby GRANTED.”

The judge’s ruling comes less than two weeks after Richmond city leaders denied an appeal from residents to stop the development.

In that case, the neighbors also argued the zoning ordinance that allows for the development is wrong based on the history of the zoning in the area.