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Votes

Too Close for Comfort?

Houses across from Hayfield Secondary could be six feet apart.

Lawnmowers will likely be the biggest problem, said Planning Commissioner Rodney Lusk (Lee). The eight houses proposed to go on three acres across from Hayfield Secondary school could end up being fairly close together, a little as six feet counting things like fireplaces.

Once air conditioning units are put in, those distances could get even smaller. Lusk said he has lived in a similar development.

“The hardest thing is negotiating a lawnmower through the side yards,” he said.

The small distances, however, raised concerns with several other members of the Planning Commission on Feb. 22.

The land is currently occupied by three houses and a pond. These houses would be removed, and the water will remain. “It’s the closest thing to waterfront property I’ve seen in a long time in Fairfax County,” said Greg Riegle, attorney for the developer, Christopher Management.

But even houses near water can catch on fire. Commissioner John Byers (Mount Vernon) noted that the distances between the houses may be too close and could allow a potential fire to spread from house to house easily. “I find that dangerous,” Byers said.

He said he is under the impression that the County Fire Marshall mandates 10 feet between houses.

“To my knowledge, we comply fully [with fire code requirements],” Riegle said.

There is nothing in the fire code which speaks to the distance between houses, said Lt. Raul Castillo, spokesperson for the Fairfax County Fire Department. “It’s a zoning issue,” he said the day after the hearing.

Commissioner Jim Hart (at large) said that another problem could be the more mundane task of putting up a ladder to reach external walls without having to put the base to that ladder on a neighbor’s property.

Such a situation actually occurred in the Lorton area, Byers said. “What a mess.”

Lusk deferred decision on the project to March 2 to work out those issues, and to review the developer’s plan to save some trees on the site.