A Midland developer has filed a $10.3 million lawsuit against the Fauquier County Board of Supervisors, claiming it violated state law by rejecting his proposal last month to build homes and office space in fast-growing Bealeton.
Donald Tharpe said the supervisors owe him money after they removed his property from the Bealeton service district, depriving the land of public utilities such as sewer and water lines.
"No reasonable use, in view of existing market conditions, remains available to the property," and the board's action "reduced its fair market value by millions of dollars," according to the suit filed in Fauquier County Circuit Court on Tuesday, the 30-day deadline for appealing his proposal to build 90 homes on an 85-acre tract near Liberty High School.
Tharpe's development, Great Marsh, has generated controversy in the southern end of the county since it was proposed a year ago. The 56-year-old retired manufacturing executive asked the county to rezone his land, now leased to dairy farmers, from agricultural to residential and commercial.
But county officials had expressed concern that the area was growing too quickly and that Great Marsh would further crowd schools and roads. Tharpe has said the impact on Bealeton would be minimal.
Bealeton, off Route 17 near intersections with Routes 28 and 29, is one of Fauquier's fastest-growing areas, attracting newcomers who want comparatively cheap homes in Northern Virginia with easy access to Manassas and Fredericksburg.
In 10 years, the population has more than doubled, from 1,419 to 3,720, said Kristen Slawter, a county planner. The rate of home building has nearly tripled over the decade, from 516 to 1,355 housing units, she said.
Great Marsh's prospects were dim from the start. The Planning Commission voted unanimously in the fall to recommend that the supervisors reject it. In November, the supervisors voted to exclude the property from the 1,569-acre Bealeton service district, which led to their denial of his proposal altogether since the development could not be built without public utilities.
The decision to remove his land from the Bealeton service district was partly based on the report by a citizens group that makes recommendations on Bealeton's land-use regulations.
Tharpe's suit asks the court to declare the supervisors' decisions invalid and force them to return his land to the Bealeton service district. The suit alleges that the citizens committee has "no legal or judicial status."
Supervisor Sharon Grove McCamy (R-Lee), whose district would have included Great Marsh, said the citizens committee "never acted in a decision-making capacity, only in an advisory one."
Paul McCulla, the county attorney, said that the court was required to give the board's action "a presumption of correction" and that Tharpe must have evidence that the supervisors' decision was "unreasonable and based on errors in fact."
"The chances of prevailing against a municipality are low," he said. He said developers have sued the county, unsuccessfully, five times since 1989.
"The supervisors feel like they made a correct decision," he said. "We will vigorously defend the lawsuit."