A near capacity crowd at the Falls Church City Council chambers tonight proved during the public petition period to be sharply divided between homeowners in favor of and opposed to interpretations of Falls Church’s current and proposed zoning ordinances by the City’s zoning administrator and its Zoning Ordinance Advisory Committee (ZOAC). The most strident remarks came from critics of F.C.’s zoning chief John Boyle who also supported the recent 7-0 vote of the ZOAC to prohibit division of residential properties along “sub-standard lot” lines and to call for the “averaging” of front yard setbacks.
Among critics of Boyle, accused by them of disregarding the City’s current zoning laws on sub-standard lots and setbacks, Dr. Gordon Theisz lashed out, “The zoning administrator, either through ignorance or outright defiance of the law, is hiding under a legal presumption that his decisions are correct…He is neglecting some language of the law. Lack of supervision has allowed him to make continued, far reaching errors that are permanent.”
On the other side of the issue, speaking in favor of “property rights,” citizen Art McArthur displayed petition signatures favoring the division of lots along their “sub-standard” designations, accusing the ZOAC report of being “disingenuous.” There are 984 “sub-standard lots” in Falls Church, and if zoning law prohibits the division of larger parcels into their sub-standard components, then the City will squander opportunities for major increases in tax revenues, argued resident and realtor Diane Edwards. Others spoke up sharing the views of McArthur and Edwards.
But Jim Custer argued that permitting the division of substandard lots will “destroy the character of neighborhoods and was joined by others sharing his view. Former City Councilman Dan Maller, who has sued to stop a Boyle-authorized subdivision of lots on Lincoln Avenue, noted that substandard lots were “grandfathered” into the last major zoning revisions made in the City in 1959, when smaller lots of that size were deemed as prohibited going forward,
In his sharp remarks, Theisz accused Boyle of “retribution” against Maller for his suit. “Last month, the zoning administrator shockingly cited citizen Dan Maller for what he incorrectly perceives as a lot coverage violation six years after construction. His citation is prominently displayed on a local website which assails Mr. Maller’s credibility. While that citation is pending a BZA (Board of Zoning Appeals–ed.) appeal, it is fair to say that the citation was made as retribution, not enforcement,” he said.
The City Council had no item on its agenda last night pertaining to the subject, but is scheduled to begin a review of the ZOAC recommendations at its work session next Monday, March 7, at City Hall.