Fairfax County to debate home gathering regulations

(WJLA) - Felicia Lowe is a Fairfax County resident and mother of two who has people over all the time, and to hear that the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors is now considering putting limitations on that seems a bit intrusive.

“I don’t know if that’s the right thing to do, or if they can actually regulate that; I don’t see how they could, it’s my private home, I don’t think they should be able to tell us who we can or can’t have at our home and when.”

The proposed amendment looks to change the zoning ordinance to limit the number of large gatherings at a home to three in a 40-day period – prohibiting parties of 50 people or more per day.

The county says it has received complaints from residents saying it is creating parking, noise, and other nuisance issues for neighbors. And while Fairfax County Board Chairman Sharon Bulova says that she supports the idea of trying to address the issue, she doesn’t necessarily support the proposal:

“We’re also seeing people turning single family homes into a synagogue, a mosque, or a temple – circumventing the process you would ordinarily go through to get a special permit.”

Since December, the Fairfax County Sheriff’s Office received more than 3,600 calls for service for both loud party and noise violations. In April, there were 138 calls made for loud parties alone. However, those numbers don’t indicate how many of them were from the same house – which is what this proposal is targeting: repeat offenders.

Board Supervisor Pat Herrity says that according to code enforcement, they have only received about 10 complaints out of 9,000 a year, specifically aimed at repeated large gatherings at a particular home.

“I’ve got serious problems with the proposal on a number of grounds.”

Though the rule wouldn’t apply to commercial purposes such as child care centers and cultural centers, he thinks the changes could create more noise than expected.

“It comes down to again a constitutional right to assemble, punishing many for the actions of a few. You’re gonna lump a whole bunch of people in this who are meeting on a regular basis in their neighborhoods without any problems.”

The Board will be holding three public meetings to gather community input. The first one is Wednesday night at the South County Government Center in Alexandria at 7 p.m.

We spoke with supervisor Michael Frey who was behind this proposal, he tells us this all stems from a specific situation several years ago involving a religious institution in a residential district that didn’t have the required zoning permits.

Since then, Congress passed legislation to protect them from local governments, and the county’s attorneys advised them to regulate based on things other than a house of worship.

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Those who wish to speak or address the board during the public hearings must first register with the clerk online or by phone at 703-324-3151.