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05.14.2024 Legal News

Virginia Adopts New Minimum Period of Validity for Solar and Residential Housing Permits

Across the Commonwealth, localities have significantly varying periods of validity for permits related to solar developments, battery storage, and residential housing. From locality to locality, permit lengths may range from six months up to five years, while some localities lack any standardized length at all.

As project developers have faced supply chain issues, labor shortages, federal or state permit delays, or, in the case of solar developments, interconnection delays, in some cases duly granted permits have expired prior to construction through no fault of the developer, requiring them to return to the local governing body and apply for a permit extension or a new permit altogether.

In recent years, legislation has been introduced to address this problem for permits that had been granted immediately prior to or during the COVID-19 pandemic. Until this year, however, no such action had been taken to effectively deal with permits granted after the pandemic.

Delegate Carrie Coyner introduced HB 650 in the 2024 General Assembly session, seeking to remedy this problem by offering a minimum period of validity for solar, battery and residential development permits that offers developers greater certainty in project timelines.

Specifically, this legislation establishes that all special exceptions, special use permits, or conditional use permits for solar energy, or energy storage, or residential development projects must provide the developer or landowner a minimum of three years to commence construction on the project. Additionally, HB 650 (Coyner) clarifies that as long as the permit remains valid, no change or amendment to any local ordinance, map, resolution, rule, regulation, policy, or plan adopted subsequent to the date of approval shall adversely affect the right of the developer or the developer’s successor in interest to commence and complete an approved development in accordance with the lawful terms of the permit.

HB 650 (Coyner) received sweeping support from the General Assembly, passing the House 86-10 and the Senate 37-2 before being signed by the governor on April 2, 2024. These new three-year minimum periods of validity will now take effect on July 1, 2024.