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As a young, single guy just starting out at a small, general practice firm in Arlington, Martin Walsh got assigned to work with the zoning partner because it meant a lot of night meetings. Thirty years later, he’s still hitting about two night meetings a week out in Fairfax County, where he deals first-hand with the intensely local politics of land use. It’s territory he knows well. Walsh, called Art, has never really left his home state of Virginia. He grew up in Arlington, got his undergraduate and law degrees from the College of William and Mary, and then returned to Arlington to practice at Harrell, Campbell and Lawson. Walsh, 58, stayed at the firm until 1983, when he started his own firm, Walsh, Colucci, Lubeley, Emrich & Terpak, in Arlington. His firm now has 30 lawyers plus seven planners, and is probably the single dominant force in land use in Northern Virginia, covering a broad swath of territory from Arlington County west to Fairfax, Prince William, and Loudon counties. Clients include Tishman Speyer Properties, a New York-based international developer, for which Walsh currently is handling the rezoning of about 170 acres along the Dulles Toll Road for an office park with hotel, retail shops, and residences. He successfully steered the Gannett Co. and its USA Today subsidiary through a tough height-limit zoning battle that went all the way to the Virginia Supreme Court. Gannett moved into its new 12-story corporate headquarters in McLean in 2001; USA Today opened its nine-story editorial building at the same time. “He’s not afraid to tell you you’re wrong, or that you’re not going to get [planning] staff support,” says William Collins, who asked Walsh to represent his development company, the McLean-based Concordia Group, when he started it nearly five years ago. Collins says he was deeply impressed by the “personal interest” that Walsh took in his venture from the start. “He was constantly touching base with me. He’s so professional, but he also becomes vested in your projects,” says Collins, whose firm is building houses, condominiums, and industrial buildings in Northern Virginia. Developers are having to work harder to get land rezoned in Virginia, now that the open spaces are closing and most new projects abut others. “You have to work closely with the planning professionals,” says Walsh, who concentrates his own practice in Fairfax and Arlington counties, plus the city of Fairfax and town of Herndon. “We’ve used him exclusively in Fairfax County in the five and a half years we’ve been there,” says James Evans, head of Tishman’s local office. “He will tell you straight out if a project is good or bad,” Evans says. “He saves us a lot of time.”

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