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Hanover County requests lawsuit dismissal

Posted on Thursday, July 17, 2014 at 10:44 am

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Hanover County is asking the courts to dismiss a lawsuit centering around a dispute over a large electronic sign near the site of a still-pending outlet mall.

The suit claims the county favored developer of Northlake Ridge, Craig Realty, over EMAC LLC., which owns 43 acres near the development, in a dispute over the placement of a large electronic sign that would be visible from the interstate.

EMAC LLC., which is owned by George McGeorge who also owns McGeorge’s Rolling Hills RV, filed the suit in response to a decision the board made in May.

“The complaint filed by EMAC does not present any legitimate basis for the award of damages against the county,” said Sterling Rives, county attorney. “This is simply a rezoning case and the board of supervisors had a legitimate basis for denying the extension of the Conditional Use Permit for the EMAC property.”

The county filed a response last week, arguing that the original CUP requested by Northlake for the rights to the southern sign on EMAC property was not valid and should not have been given. According to a Virginia Code that was cited in the county’s response, the landowner or someone who had a contract with that individual must request the permit. As a result, the county and its representative argue that none of the disputes following the initial approval for the CUP would have occurred.

Both parties, the county and its attorney, and EMAC LLC. and its legal representation, will appear in court Sept. 30, where the judge will decide if there’s enough reason and evidence for there to be a lawsuit.

If the judge finds EMAC was treated unfairly, he or she has the ability to tell the board of supervisors to change their decision rejecting the CUP request for the southern electronic sign.

However, if the judge decides there isn’t enough evidence for a lawsuit to be brought forward, the case would be dismissed.

Regardless of the lawsuit, the signs would be built if and when the pending outlet mall is constructed in the Northlake development.

The board approved one electronic sign on the northern Northlake property owned by the developers and another, which would originally, have been on EMAC’s property. Both visible from Interstate 95.

In a complaint, filed at the Hanover Circuit Court, the plaintiff argued the sign could generate $400,000 a year. As a result, the company is seeking $6.97 million from the county.

The company stated in its complaint that Craig Realty Group attempted several times to gain control over the southern sign, alleging the realty company tried to make a deal with EMAC, but no agreements were made. When that did not work, EMAC alleged the county tried to press the plaintiff into giving the realty group control over the sign on the southern property. EMAC also alleged staff tried to meet with the developers to come to an agreement, but the realty company never secured a time to speak.

EMAC also alleged the developers asked for a CUP from the county in May of this year for a “destination sign” on property adjacent to the plaintiff’s, which in turn put their sign in Craig Realty’s control. The plaintiff alleged that in order for the board of supervisors to approve the realty company’s sign, it would have to deny EMAC’s sign. At the board’s July 23 meeting, Craig Realty Group will be requesting a CUP for a large electronic sign on the northwestern area of the Interstate 95 and Lewistown Road interchange that would promote the outlet mall. The public will have a chance to weigh in at the meeting during the public hearing. Planning commissioners recommended the proposal for approval.

“Our case is very strong and we look forward to the hearing on this matter. The county now takes the position that it botched its action of several years ago so much that it is invalid,” said Attorney Vernon E. Inge Jr., representing EMAC LLC., in response to the county’s action and Rives’ statement. “We don’t believe the judge will find the county’s action to be void. The county has been treating it as valid for years.”

EMAC is requesting a trial by jury.