The Virginia Supreme Court heard about 10 minutes of argument from Gloucester County Attorney Ted Wilmot on Tuesday in a case that arose out of a property rights issue in Ware Neck.
The three-judge panel will decide if the case should be heard by the full court. A decision is expected around the start of the new year.
Marshfield Lane resident Judy Doyel wants to equally divide 7.4 acres with two homes on it in an area of the county where zoning ordinances prohibit homes on lots of less than five acres and bar private roads such as Marshfield from serving more than three lots. Marshfield Lane has four lots.
Doyel hasn't been able to sell the property because an appraiser couldn't find comparable properties to set a value and mortgage companies wouldn't lend a buyer money.
Bob Hicks, an attorney representing Doyel, was not allowed to argue on Tuesday; arguments are reserved solely for the appellant, in this case the county.
Hicks said he was surprised the justices didn't ask more questions. A key element of the case is that Doyel wants to subdivide the property because she's been unable to sell it, which Hicks claims is a hardship that should permit Doyel to obtain permission from the county to sell the property.
"The word hardship never came up once, which is what I thought the case was about," Hicks said.
Visiting Judge Walter J. Ford ruled in June in Gloucester County Circuit Court that Doyel had been deprived of her right to sell the property, which qualifies as a hardship.
Wilmot said the argument on Tuesday went very well and the judges seemed receptive to the county's position. The primary questioning from the judges centered around the standard of review to be used by the court in deciding the case, Wilmot said.
Wilmot cited a Virginia case and said the trial court was required to uphold the decision of the county official denying Doyel's request unless that decision was "arbitrary and capricious or not based on the applicable ordinances," Wilmot said.
The Supreme Court "should hear the case because the trial court clearly got it wrong," Wilmot said.