Removing Trees Near Buildings in Winchester, Virginia: What You Need to Know

The City of Winchester, Virginia has specific regulations for private owners when it comes to plants and trees on their property. If these plants or trees start to encroach on sidewalks or rights of way, it is necessary to prune or remove them in order to avoid any safety issues. All zoning regulations must be uniform for each class or type of building and use in each district, although the regulations of one district may differ from those of another. When creating zoning ordinances and districts, it is important to consider the current use and nature of the property, the comprehensive plan, the suitability of the property for various uses, trends of growth or change, the current and future requirements of the community in terms of land for various purposes, community transportation requirements, requirements for airports, housing, schools, parks, recreational areas and other public services, conservation of natural resources, preservation of floodplains, protection of life and property against structural faults, preservation of agricultural and forest land, conservation of properties and their values and promotion of the most appropriate use of land throughout the locality.

The local planning commission is responsible for preparing a proposed zoning ordinance that includes a map or maps showing the division of the territory into districts and a text that establishes the applicable rules in each district. The commission will hold at least one public hearing on a proposed ordinance or any amendment to an ordinance upon notice as required by § 15.2-2204. After this hearing, they may make appropriate changes to the proposed ordinance or amendment. Once their work is completed, they will submit the proposed ordinance or amendment to the governing body along with their recommendations and appropriate explanatory material. No zoning ordinance can be amended or re-enacted unless it has been referred to the local planning commission for recommendations. If the commission does not report within 100 days after their first meeting after receiving the proposed amendment or recreation (or a shorter period as prescribed by the governing body), it will be considered approved unless the applicant has withdrawn it before this time period has expired.

The governing body will hold at least one public hearing on a proposal to reduce this review period. They will publish a notice of this hearing in a newspaper of general circulation in the local area at least two weeks before its date as well as on any local website. In case of withdrawal, no other measures are necessary since this subsection would require otherwise. Any county that has adopted an executive form of urban county government provided for in Chapter 8 (§ 15.2-800 et seq.) is exempt from this rule. Any action that challenges a decision made by a local government body regarding adoption or non-adoption of a proposed zoning ordinance or amendment to it or granting or not granting a special exception must be filed within thirty days in the circuit court that has jurisdiction over the land affected by this decision. The governing body or zoning appeals board of Hampton and Norfolk may impose a condition on any special exception or permit for use related to licensees of retail alcoholic beverage control that provides that such special exception or permission for use will expire automatically upon change of ownership of the property, change of possession, change in operation or management of a facility, or after a specified period of time. Whenever there is reasonable reason to believe that someone has violated a zoning ordinance that limits occupancy in a residential housing unit (which is subject to civil penalty according to articles 15.2-2209), if data or information necessary to determine if a violation has occurred cannot be obtained after making a good faith effort to do so, then The local lawyer can submit a petition to the judge of general district court for their jurisdiction over a duces tecum subpoena against anyone who refuses to provide such data or information.

If substantiated cause is demonstrated, then this subpoena can be issued. Any person who fails to comply with such subpoena will be punished in contempt of court by the court that issued it. This person can also ask the judge who issued it to overturn it. Notwithstanding § 15.2-2311, a zoning ordinance may prescribe an appeal period shorter than 30 days but not less than 10 days for notices related to temporary or seasonal business uses, commercial truck parking in residential zoning districts, maximum occupancy limits in residential dwellings units or similar short-term and recurring violations. The zoning administrator must respond within 90 days (or longer if agreed upon) after receiving requests for decisions or determinations on zoning issues within their scope. If the decision or determination made by the zoning manager could impair the ability of an owner of an adjacent property then they must be notified before any action is taken.

Victor Ulmer
Victor Ulmer

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