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How Tall Is Too Tall?

A Zoning Text Amendment introduced by County Councilmember Howard Denis (R-1) seeks to clarify how tall a house can be.

According to current law, a house can be no more than 35 feet tall, however, there is some discrepancy about where the measuring of that 35 feet starts and stops.

Height is currently measured from the level of the street to the highest point of a flat roof, with exceptions made for other roof styles.

However, if a building is located on a terrace above street level, it is given credit for the height difference.

Some developers have been creating terraces in order to get around the height requirement, said Ken Hartman, aide to Denis.

“Some developers have been trying to get the greater height,” he said.

The zoning changes seek to close this loophole.

“You’ve got to measure from pre-development grade,” Hartman said.

This has been in issue for Denis’ constituents since he came to office, Hartman said. It is of particular importance in communities like Bethesda and Chevy Chase, where old houses are being torn down to make room for new, larger houses, but new developments being built in Potomac, would also be affected.

While it is important to respect the rights of property owners to develop their property, it is also important to consider the impact of the new homes on the character of the neighborhood, Hartman said.

—Ari Cetron