Local Commentary

A Penny For Your Thoughts: The News of Greater Falls Church

A McMansion? Or a McHotel? That’s the question facing our community as a property owner in the Seven Corners area has applied for a building permit to construct a new “house” with 13 bedrooms and 13 bathrooms on a lot that currently holds a 1950s-style brick and frame rambler. The actual number of bedrooms is a question. It could be only nine or 10. 

The proposed plans also include a home theatre, two offices, and a guest room. With 13 bedrooms, why would you need a guest room? The plans submitted to the county indicate that one bathroom has four sinks in it. Sounds like a college dorm, doesn’t it? The plans also show a two-car garage. Two cars for 13 bedrooms? This one doesn’t pass the giggle test.

The Fairfax County Zoning Ordinance, adopted in 1978 and amended throughout the years, contains specific requirements for land usage on residential, commercial, and industrial properties. In the case noted above, the R-3 designation (maximum of three dwelling units to the acre permitted) includes side setbacks from the property line of 12 feet, front setback of 30 feet, and rear setback of 25 feet. The setbacks define the potential building footprint. In past years, larger yards and smaller houses were the norm, and setbacks rarely were an issue. Today, large homes and small yards seem to be desirable, and the building footprint often rests right on the setback line, putting the structure closer to the property line, and to neighboring houses, than has been the custom. It’s legal, but it often violates the spirit of neighborhood harmony.

The “McHotel” proposal is under review by both the county’s Zoning Office and the Permits Division. Thanks should go to some savvy neighbors who started asking questions of the owner/contractor and the Zoning office. This one should be nipped in the bud.

As Labor Day approaches, keep an eye out for Fairfax County Firefighters and Paramedics who are participating in the annual “Fill the Boot” campaign for muscular dystrophy and related neuro-muscular diseases. Fairfax County residents have contributed more than $3 million for disease research and family support through the years. The Labor Day weekend effort corresponds with the “Help Jerry’s Kids” telethon hosted by comedian Jerry Lewis. Uniformed fire personnel will be at major intersections collecting donations throughout the weekend. Please be generous, and be careful.

Most Fairfax County public schools begin the new school year next Tuesday. Passing a school bus whose red lights are flashing is against the law. Please remember that speed limits in school zones are reduced, and enforced, and heed the crossing guard’s instructions at school intersections. Let’s keep our students safe!

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