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November 7, 2017

Walker Drive project foes fail to prove damage

The lawsuit challenges the town council’s rezoning of 31.4 acres along the eastern edge of Warrenton.
Of course I disagree with it. But that’s his ruling. He’s free to make decisions, based on what we provided.
— William Semple, plaintiff in lawsuit
By .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
Staff Journalist
Seven Warrenton residents Tuesday lost Round One in their legal battle to derail a large mixed-use development project along Walker Drive.

After an hour-long hearing, Fauquier County Circuit Court Judge Jeffery W. Parker ruled the plaintiffs in a lawsuit failed to demonstrate that the project — if constructed as approved — would cause harm particular to them, not shared by the public generally.

In doing so, Judge Parker agreed with the Town of Warrenton.

Representing the town, Warrenton lawyer Henry C. Day argued that the residents’ inability to provide evidence of special damage to them meant they had no legal standing to challenge the town council’s July approval of the project.

But William Semple and the other plaintiffs who live near the Walker Drive site believe additional traffic, noise, lighting and public safety issues associated with the project will uniquely harm them.

They want the court to void the Walker Drive rezoning because they believe the town council violated municipal and state regulations in approving the application.

While Judge Parker ruled in favor of the town Tuesday, he gave the plaintiffs until Dec. 6 to submit a revised complaint, which presumably would include additional specific evidence proving they have a legal right to challenge the council’s rezoning decision in circuit court.

“I’m pleased,” Mr. Day said of Judge Parker’s ruling. “I think the court agreed with the town. There are certain minimums that must be met to bring” such a lawsuit.

But, “it’s not over,” added the former Town of Warrenton attorney. “It’ll be back, unless they fail an amended pleading” by Dec. 6.

Mr. Semple, an inventor who lives at 319 Falmouth St. near the site, represented himself at Tuesday’s hearing.

“We’ll just re-plea it,” explained Mr. Semple, who has represented himself in federal court concerning patent issues. “This is pretty standard stuff.”

The revised plea will provide “more specifics” about negative effects the project would have on the plaintiffs, he said.

“Of course, I disagree with it,” Mr. Semple said of Tuesday’s decision. “But, that’s his ruling. He’s free to make decisions, based on what we provided.”

Woodstock lawyer Bradley G. Pollack, who represents the other six homeowners, put a positive spin on Judge Parker’s finding.

“Theoretically, it could have been over today,” if the judge simply had thrown out the case, Mr. Pollack said.

But, by allowing his clients to provide more evidence to make their case, “the judge is giving us a chance to do it all over again,” he said.

Mr. Pollack and Mr. Semple believe that new legal lease on life permits them to make a more detailed, focused and therefore more convincing case.

Walker Drive project landowners Mike Forsten, Bob and Bill Springer and Walt Hitchcock in June 2016 filed a rezoning application for the mixed-use development proposal.

After three work sessions and two public hearings, Warrenton’s planning commission last February voted, 6-1, to recommend denial.

In May, the town council held a work session on the proposal.

After a two-hour hearing in July, the council voted, 6-1, to approve the revised proposal. Councilman Sean Polster (At-large) cast the dissenting vote.

Rezoned from Industrial to Industrial Planned Unit Development, the 31.4-acre project calls for entertainment uses, including a possible multiscreen movie theater and bowling alley, restaurants, shops, offices, 40 condominiums and 76 apartments.
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TooTrue · November 13, 2017 at 11:04 am
Parker is a bad joke. Polster trys to do the right thing but doesn't get the support he should. The other good ole boys continue to tear the town down for their own greed and political gain.
citizen observer · November 8, 2017 at 10:05 am
Judge Parker is a joke and a disgrace to the legal system. He needs to be removed from the bench after his recent WalMart extravaganza.
BJ · November 7, 2017 at 6:03 pm
Well then Mr. Parker why don't you move there! You are a disgrace to the bench and don't have a clue what it will mean to people to have this UGLY development built in that area. I don't care how many trees you plant, it going to be UGLY!!

Blaine Johnson
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