Infill development, neighborhood character, McMansions, increased stormwater runoff, clear cutting of old trees, and a variety of other actual and perceived problems and irritants consumed over three hours of discussion Monday afternoon and early evening in the office conference room of Mount Vernon District Supervisor Gerald Hyland. The final outcome was to have more discussions.
Hyland called the meeting to deal with growing complaints from residents of older neighborhoods who have expressed frustration with what they perceive as a lack of governmental action to deal with infill residential development. The meeting brought face-to-face representatives of the Northern Virginia Building Industry Association (NVBIA), Fairfax County officials who deal with zoning and land use, and representatives of several local home owner associations.
"Recent experiences of some communities in the [Mount Vernon] District with infill development is a reflection of problems I've had for years with this matter. These so-called ‘Frankenhouses’ are only one example of the problem. They were approved by County staff based on existing rules and regulations but those don't make sense when it comes to the impact on abutting properties," Hyland said.
"There are many problems brought forth by these houses — how is the height determined if the ground is built up, what about stormwater run off on abutting properties and streets, and what is the impact of these huge homes next to others much smaller," Hyland said in kicking off the meeting.
"Abutting property owners are very concerned about what this will do to their properties. I normally get involved when things start to happen — not when these places are approved," he said. "I keep hearing from frustrated citizens who feel the County has no controls."
SPEAKING FOR NVBIA, Rick Genuario admitted, "Infill development evokes a lot of emotion. But, the real question is what can we do together to deal with this situation?"
He also emphasized, "[The building industry is] over regulated now. The County needs to enforce existing regulations properly — not create more."
Genuario explained that it is the market that is driving the creation of much larger homes. Tracing the development of single family homes from post World War II, when they averaged approximately 1,500 square feet, to the present so-called McMansions that range up to 5,000 square feet and more, Genuario emphasized that is what buyers are demanding.
"We have a lot of demand on us to build larger and larger homes. The other problem is that a lot of people are doing their own construction and this raises other concerns," Genuario said.
ANOTHER PROBLEM DISCUSSED during the meeting involved the fact that although Fairfax County owns the right-of-way of most streets, the Virginia Department of Transportation maintains that right-of-way. It again came down to a question of financial priorities.
In the final analysis Hyland agreed to initiate a series of seminars to discuss land use and the various actions that impact that subject. The seminars will discuss not only infill development but also such topics as stormwater runoff, building height limitations, and others topics that directly impact the conflict between property rights and neighborhood character. No time and date details were set for the information sessions.