The Falls Church City Council took a decisive action tonight in an effort to finally put to rest a persisting problem for the City, the practice of residential property owners whose homes straddle two substandard lots to tear down their homes and build two new ones, one on each of the underlying substandard lots. The City’s zoning administrator has permitted this practice to date, to the increasing objections of many residential home owners who feel it is introducing too much density into neighborhoods.
The Council agreed with those objections tonight, giving final approval to an ordinance modifying the City’s zoning code effectively prohibiting such divisions going forward, but giving all effected property owners a year to make whatever moves they decide upon in light of the new law.
The main issue tonight was how much time to give the impacted property owners. The City Council proposed a year when it gave a preliminary first reading to the measure in June, but when it was referred to the Planning Commission, that body recommended shortening the window from a year to six months.
Strangely, that recommendation got slipped into the language for the City Council’s final approval tonight, and everyone on the Council favored moving the time frame back to a year. They also opposed the Planning Commission’s recommendation for a completed demolition prior to a grading plan approval, instead giving the property owner six months from the time of receiving a demolition permit to follow through.
The terms of the zoning changes will go into effect this August 1, with the grace period for implementation on existing properties will run until August 1, 2014. Tonight’s vote was 6-0 with Councilman David Tarter recusing himself because of a potential conflict of interest.