State Supreme Court rejects jailed yard owner’s zoning challenge

By Joe Beck

Julia E. Souter, jailed for failing to comply with a judge’s order that she clean up her property at 471 Apple Jack Circle, Linden, now faces a $1,000 fine after the Virginia Supreme Court rejected an appeal she filed in a separate zoning dispute.

Assistant County Attorney Dan Whitten said the court notified his office Monday that Souter’s appeal had been rejected. The ruling leaves intact her earlier conviction in Warren County Circuit Court for violating rules governing accessory buildings.

“She had too many accessory buildings in violation of the zoning code,” Whitten said, citing a requirement that lots of more than three acres have no more than two accessory buildings totaling 1,200 square feet.

“She exceeded that,” Whitten said. “The judge ordered her to remove one.”

Online court records show that Souter filed an appeal with the Supreme Court on June 17 after the Court of Appeals of Virginia ruled against her in May. The case originated in Warren County where Judge Dennis L. Hupp fined her $1,000 on May 6, 2011 after she failed to remove one of the buildings.

Whitten said the Supreme Court dismissed Souter’s appeal Thursday on procedural grounds “because she hadn’t filed the necessary documentation.”

Souter has a long history of tangling with county zoning officials and lawyers over property maintenance issues.

Hupp found her in contempt of court earlier this month and sentenced her to up to six months in jail for failing to clean up her yard in accordance with the county’s zoning code. It was the second time she has been jailed in less than five years over a violation of the county zoning ordinance.

Her sentence could be lifted if the yard, filled with vehicles, appliances and other objects, is cleaned up and county zoning officials deem it in compliance with the zoning code.

Whitten said he has received no information so far that anything is being done to clean up Souter’s yard.

Online court records show Souter has been charged five times since 2007 for violating laws pertaining to accumulation of refuse, inoperable vehicles kept on her property and non-complaint and accessory structures.

There is an even longer list of infractions involving a lack of county dog tags, no rabies shots and several traffic violations.

She is currently representing herself in a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Harrisonsburg in which she argues the county’s zoning ordinance is unconstitutional.

She has asked U.S. District Judge Michael F. Urbanski to put the suit “on hold” while she is in jail.

Urbanski has not ruled on the request.

Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or jbeck@nvdaily.com