Norton v. City of Danville

268 Va. 402, 602 S.E.2d 126 (2004)

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Norton v. City of Danville

Virginia Supreme Court
268 Va. 402, 602 S.E.2d 126 (2004)

Facts

The Danville City Council (the council) established the Commission of Architectural Review (the commission) to review improvements made in the historic district of the City of Danville (defendant). An owner of property located within the historic district was required to obtain a certificate of appropriateness from the commission prior to making improvements within view of a public right-of-way. Carl T. Norton (plaintiff) owned a home that had been built in 1884 in the historic district. At the time Norton bought the home, it had a wooden front door and three glass doors, all of which were visible from the street. After Norton’s home was burglarized several times, the police department recommended that he replace the wooden door with a glass door to help police officers see into his house as they patrolled the area. Norton followed the recommendation. Several months after Norton installed the new front door, a city official informed him that, to keep the new front door, he would need to obtain a certificate of appropriateness from the commission. Without a certificate of appropriateness, Norton would be required to reinstall his wooden front door or face a criminal charge. Norton applied for a certificate of appropriateness, and the commission denied his application. In support of its denial, the commission asserted without evidence that Norton’s home had originally had a wooden front door. The council affirmed the commission’s decision, and Norton appealed to the trial court. At trial, the city’s position rested on the assertion that the home’s original door had been wooden. However, the city did not produce any evidence that the home had had a wooden door prior to 1992. The city put forth no witnesses concerning the door’s composition prior to 1992, nor did it present exhibits, such as historical photos, to demonstrate that the home originally had a wooden door. The trial court affirmed the commission’s decision, and Norton appealed to the Virginia Supreme Court.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Agee, J.)

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