A county circuit court ruled last week in favor of a Manassas community that had sued to stop a developer from building a public road through the subdivision.

Chief Judge Richard Bowen Potter ruled for Riverview Estates and its homeowners association June 27, saying that the association's covenants overruled the desires of the developer, Classic Concept Builders, which sought an access road for a low-density development adjacent to Riverview Estates.

"I think this could have set an incredibly bad precedent," said Jill Clauss, president of the homeowners association. "If they allowed this to go through, and it violated the covenants, we would not be able to enforce them."

Mark Granville-Smith, chief executive of Classic Concept, was on vacation and unavailable for comment.

What happens next is up to Classic Concept. The builder, which constucts approximately 40 homes a year, originally wanted to rezone the property next to Riverview to build 19 homes on 50 acres and needed a public road to do it. Amy Granville-Smith, wife the chief executive, owned a house in Riverview and would tear it down to make room for the road.

The county is unlikely to approve the rezoning request because of the court ruling, said Supervisor Martin E. Nohe (R-Coles).

"I do think it's good news that the [homeowners association] won the case," Nohe said. "Equally important is that it's good news for homeowners associations everywhere. We want homeowners associations to continue to be able to operate effectively, and this judgment is good news in that regard, that they can enforce those covenants and the court will uphold them."

Lawyers with Vandeventer Black, Riverview's counsel, said that both the case and the ruling were unusual. Most homeowners association cases involve disputes within the association; few involve an outside developer. Typically, the lawyers added, courts tend to heavily scrutinize associations and their covenants.

"The burden is really on the [homeowners association] to begin with," said Sadiq Gill, senior partner at Vandeventer Black, adding that courts generally favor development and individual property rights. "The law does not favor restrictions on land usage."