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Retired Fairfax judge to preside over Missing Middle court case

Arlington residents filed suit to stop implementing of zoning changes

A retired Fairfax County Circuit Court judge will preside over the upcoming trial challenging the Arlington County government’s imposition of Expanded Housing Opportunities (at one time known as Missing Middle) housing policies.

The judge, David Schell, served on the Circuit Court for Fairfax County for eight years after having served on the Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court for 17 years, including four as chief judge.

Because all four Circuit Court judges in Arlington are impacted by the policy change, they recused themselves from the case. The Virginia Supreme Court tapped Schell to preside, an action that necessitated postponement from the trial’s original planned start date of mid-July.

The lawsuit, filed by a group of Arlington residents, contends that the housing-policy changes – which effectively gutted single-family zoning in Arlington – were riddled with both procedural and substantive faults.

But challenging actions taken by a governing body in Virginia can be an uphill battle, as critics of the decision to change the name of Washington-Lee High School to Washington-Liberty found when they mounted a court challenge against the Arlington School Board that was rather quickly rejected.

Despite the court challenge, the Arlington government already has started processing applications to build multi-family (or multi-house) developments on land that until earlier this year had been designated for single properties.