Game On ... Sort Of

Game On ... Sort Of

Board of Supervisors approves a proffer to allow half-court basketball in Washington Square.

Residents of Washington Square can use half of their multi-use court for basketball, thanks to a decision by the Board of Supervisors.

On Monday, July 31, the Board approved a proffer that will allow half-court games to be played by residents but no outside guests, a condition that may prove difficult to enforce.

“I’m not 100 percent happy with the decision,” said Mike Orenstein, a Washington Square resident who has been outspoken against the basketball hoops for the past several years.

Orenstein, whose house is 90 feet from the fenced-in court, said it would have been better for the board to not allow any team sport to be played within earshot of the homes.

The basketball hoops were taken down last fall, mandated by the Board of Supervisors, because it was decided that they were put up without proper approval by the board. In addition, Orenstein and other residents had complained that people who did not live in Washington Square were using the court, playing games late into the evening and using foul language that was disruptive to those who lived near the courts.

BEFORE THE HOOPS are reinstalled, the Washington Square Board of Directors must comply with regulations in the proffer, including a way to monitor the court to ensure that only residents are using the court at any given time, Orenstein said.

“The way it was drawn up, the intent and belief is that this will help, but to what extent, it’s too early to say,” Orenstein said. “There’s nothing in the agreement that wasn’t put on the table in our good faith offer to get a solution.”

However, because the decision was based on a zoning violation, there was some confusion as to whether the proffer would be enforced by the county’s zoning enforcement staff.

“If people who do not live in the neighborhood use the court, it will be considered trespassing and the Fairfax County Police would be called in to enforce the rules,” said St. Clair Williams, a Planner II in the Office of Zoning Evaluation. “If a violation is reported to zoning enforcement, we could investigate it, but it’s up to the police to enforce it.”

Once the hoops are back up, the Washington Square Board of Directors have three years before it can reapply to allow a hoop to be put back up on the other end of the court, Williams said.

“They would have to request it from the supervisor’s office and the zoning administration for the second hoop,” he said.

Technically, the court is still considered a multi-use court, where volleyball, basketball and tennis can be played, Williams said. On the other side of a fence that divides the court in half, people can still play tennis.

“At this time, it’s not a full-court set up,” Williams said. “You can play a game only at one end” of the court, along the north side of Waites Way.

Supervisor Gerry Hyland (D-Mount Vernon) said he met with both Orenstein and Leslie Darden, president of the Washington Square Board of Directors, prior to the meeting on July 31, so both men could discuss their concerns.

"We reached what I felt was a classic compromise of competing interests," said Hyland, of the final decision.

By prohibiting non-residents from using the court and moving the hoop to the northern end of the court away from the homes where most of the complaints stemmed from, Hyland said the solution should make most residents there happy.

"This court was never intended to be a public court," he said. "I think this compromise will work for all interests, but only time will tell."

Supervisor Cathy Hudgins (D-Hunter Mill) abstained from the vote, deciding that the basketball court had stipulations that were unfairly put in place.

"I understand there were some issues with the basketball court and not with the tennis court," she said.

If a resident of Washington Square invites a visitor to play tennis, that is allowed, she said, but that is not the case with basketball players.

"That just doesn't seem right to me," Hudgins said.