Fairfax County v. Southland Corp.

297 S.E.2d 718 (1982)

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Fairfax County v. Southland Corp.

Virginia Supreme Court
297 S.E.2d 718 (1982)

  • Written by Galina Abdel Aziz , JD

Facts

Southland Corporation (Southland) (plaintiff) operated a nationwide chain of retail food and convenience stores called 7-Eleven (the stores). The stores were usually located in freestanding buildings of less than 5,000 square feet. A zoning ordinance (the ordinance) in Fairfax County, Virginia (the county) (defendant) classified any food-retail store of less than 5,000 square feet as a quick-service food store. Quick-service food stores were allowed as a matter of right in certain shopping centers and in three zones: planned development housing, planned development commercial, and planned residential community. Quick-service food stores were also allowed in freestanding buildings in certain commercial and industrial districts if the Board of Supervisors (the board) granted a special exception. The board reserved the right to deny any application that it deemed incompatible with existing or planned development. The board could also set conditions and restrictions on any approved special exception. Southland sued the county, seeking a declaratory judgment that parts of the ordinance were unconstitutional and void in violation of the due-process and equal-protection provisions of the Virginia and United States Constitutions. Southland alleged that the county unlawfully denied it the right to operate a freestanding quick-service food store in any commercial district in the county; that the special-exception process increased construction costs and delayed opening the stores; and that many types of larger stores were permitted by right in commercial districts even though those larger stores could have a greater adverse impact on neighboring properties, the environment, and traffic than a 7-Eleven-type store. The county argued that the ordinance was justified by the need to minimize highway traffic congestion during peak traffic hours and presented evidence of traffic activity to support its argument. The trial court held that the ordinance violated due-process and equal-protection provisions as applied to Southland and violated Virginia Code § 15.1-488, which required the uniform application of zoning laws in zoning districts. The county appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Russell, J.)

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