I wanted to let everyone know that our court date (Maller .vs. City of Falls Church & McArthur’s) is next week on the 14th of July in the circuit court of Arlington 10th floor at 10am if you’re interested in going to the proceedings. This is an important moment for substandard lot owners in the City of Falls Church. While we are hopeful of a positive outcome we do remain guarded. I will report on the outcome next week (i.e. Thursday night) once the judge renders his/her decision on the matter.
It should also be pointed out that the City did give us the approval and permits to build our new home on 1005A Lincoln Ave. We have started work and are excited with the prospects of moving in to our new home by the end of the year.
I also wanted to let everyone know that last week a group of citizens from North Oak Street went in front of City Council to present a petition that I attached to this e-mail for your convenience. I am not sure if what precipitated this, but maybe it was our building permit for 1005A or the upcoming court case. I think I should make it clear that there are two separate but related issues: 1st is the personal matter that Mr. Maller has viciously attacked and tried to financially ruin us in our pursuit to build our new home on Lincoln. He has already failed in this task. 2nd is the substandard lot development issue which I will continue to defend the vested property rights of property owners in the City of Falls Church.
I put together four main counter points to their petition because I think facts always win out.
1) There is an assumption by these residents that houses built on more than one lot are already combined. I have learned a lot in the last few months about land use law and the truth is lots can never be automatically or retroactively combined if there is a process in place to combine them. The city has a process defined in the City Code on how to formally consolidate lots. The petition mentions the 13 houses on 27 lots. Personally, I encourage each resident in the City that owns a house on multiple lots to contact the city and consolidate them if they are that passionate about it. That is their right to do so.
2) The petition states 1000 new homes could be built in the city which I believe they got from the ZOAC report. A member of the ZOAC on the same day the ZOAC report was officially submitted to city council actually refuted that claim by stating there are only 273 substandard parcels with multiple lots in the entire city. If you were to do further analysis of each lot you’d find there are less than 100 substandard parcels with multiple lots that are actually considered buildable. Here is the ZOAC members report http://fccpts.com/wordpress/?page_id=330 if you are interested in reviewing.
3) They discuss property rights but they don’t mention the “Taking of Property Rights” from those that do not conform to their point of view. There are two sides to this issue and both sides are as passionate as the other side.
4) To the point about reduced setback lines and impervious coverage. The city has clear guidelines on lot coverage <= 25% and impervious coverage <= 35%. Regardless if one or two houses are built the fact remains that 35% impervious coverage is 35% either way you cut it. One of the bigger issues which continually gets glossed over by everyone in the city is the simple fact that if one were to demolish their house and build a new house on the same property, in most cases would not be able to build a dwelling of equal square footage because of building height restrictions, front yard averaging and side/rear setback ordinances on the books or being proposed by the ZOAC. I would have to think even the residents that signed this petition would be taken back by those facts.
Finally I should mention the new director of Planning, Mr. Snyder has started to look at this issue. My belief is that he wants to resolve this issue once and for all and will amend the code to eventually prevent any further development of these lots. I am most concerned about residents who have development plans in the works or who are thinking about future plans and how they may be impacted by this decision. I am hoping for an open dialoge on these issues that was promised by city council, but I have not been given any assuranses this will happen. Maybe the City will provide the residents with a reasonable grace period before they finalize such changes. While I may still be apposed to the final outcome, it does give residents time to decide what they want to do with their property. Hopefully the outcome of our case will provide precedent of any further action by the city.