I’m Sorry, Sir, But Your House Is Too Tall

Could this have anything to do with the high cost of housing in Fairfax County?

The Board of Supervisors has decided that buyers of new or renovated homes that exceed the 35-foot height limit will have to lower the roofs or raise the ground around the foundations before they move in. According to Lisa Rein with the Washington Post, some 15 buyers have been denied occupancy permits because their houses are too tall.

The violations stem from a difference of opinion between builders and the county on how to measure the height of a house. For years, builders have interpreted the zoning ordinance more liberally than the county when measuring structures with multiple roof lines. They averaged the heights of all the roof lines, while the county says the midpoint of the highest roof line should have been measured.

County officials acknowledged last week that they had issued valid permits to build at those heights and had failed to monitor compliance with their zoning rules.

Now homeowners are paying the price for the County’s negligence. More to the point, what’s the reasoning behind the County’s regulation of the height of housing in the first place?

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15 responses to “I’m Sorry, Sir, But Your House Is Too Tall”

  1. Virginia Centrist Avatar
    Virginia Centrist

    I don’t know, but I assume the reasoning is based on the old fear that density = poverty and crime.

    And poverty and crime are code words for “brown people”.

    I’m assuming this is just another antiquated zoning ordinance from the 60s or 70s that was meant to keep suburbia free of affordable housing

  2. James Atticus Bowden Avatar
    James Atticus Bowden

    Actually height may have more to do with the ladders on the fire department to get up on the roof, than with race.

    But, nice try to put a red herring in the mix.

  3. Light Horse Avatar
    Light Horse

    If the rules are ambiguous, and the builder submitted the plans to the county, and the county approved the plans, how can the county now block residency?

  4. Toomanytaxes Avatar

    VA Centrist. The houses affected are generally the McMansions that have towering and multiple roof lines. The regulations state that the height of a house is to be measured to the highest roof line. It appears that some builders calculated an average height from multiple roof, some higher and some lower than the 35 foot limit.

  5. Ray Hyde Avatar

    It ain’t fair, but it is a matter of primacy: the King can do no wrong.

    If they say you can’t move in, then you can’t and there may be no recourse, or no recourse that is likely to work, that you can afford, and will happen in yoour lifetime.

    It is still wrong, the plans were submitted and approved. The county should live with it, and make corrections to see it doesn’t happen again.

    I got slammed with a similar thing: asked the county what I was allowed to do, they told me in writing, but when I tried to do it and had already spent the money, they said, hey, you can’t do that.

    No recourse.

  6. Virginia Centrist Avatar
    Virginia Centrist


    Oh right, I forgot. Race doesn’t exist. And white boards of supervisors never tried to keep blacks out using zoning ordinances.
    My bad.

  7. Anonymous Avatar

    Raise the ground around the foundation to make the house lower???????

    What planet do these people come from?

    Yeah, I know, its the fire ladders, but gee whiz.

  8. James Atticus Bowden Avatar
    James Atticus Bowden

    Virginia Leftist: Virginia has had a black population since 1619. If you know when a county or city used zoning to segregate then I’d like to hear about it. That kind of de facto segregation is a Northern invention.

    The closest thing I know to it is the gerrymandering of school division lines in the 60s – maybe the 70s. For example the lines were drawn in Arlington to keep Yorktown HS almost all white, Halls Hill neighborhood went to W&L and Green Valley neighborhood went to Wakefield after they closed Hoffman-Boston.

  9. Toomanytaxes Avatar

    Maybe I’ve lived in Fairfax County so long that I’ve become oblivious to things others can easily see. However, I don’t see the relationship of the belated enforcement of height limits for new homes to race.

    Given the many successful business and professional people of all races in Fairfax County, I’m sure that this decision by the BoS would affect both whites and non-whites alike, but, for the life of me, how could it affect non-white people more?

    If the argument is that zoning’s chief purpose in Fairfax County is to penalize non-whites, that argument is simply silly. The chief purpose of Fairfax County’s zoning ordinance is to generate campaign contributions for elected officials who then, in turn, manipulate it as far as possible without creating a complete citizen rebellion — which is probably occurring.

  10. Ray Hyde Avatar

    “The chief purpose of Fairfax County’s zoning ordinance is to generate campaign contributions…”

    I laughed so hard I fell out of my chair. I love it.

  11. Anonymous Avatar

    That may be purpose for Fairfax. I think the jury is out in Fauquier!!

  12. Anonymous Avatar

    At 4:17 PM, James Atticus Bowden said…

    Virginia Leftist: Virginia has had a black population since 1619. If you know when a county or city used zoning to segregate then I’d like to hear about it. That kind of de facto segregation is a Northern invention.

    Hey JAB – Check out Vienna’s Historic District. If you knew anything about it, you’d see that ALL the historical black houses & cemeterys were completely left out – even though it’s all the same neighborhood.

    But, nice try.

  13. Endangered Houses Avatar
    Endangered Houses

    It’s not fun when you’re forced to live this nightmare as I am. After building a house to FC building permit, we have been denied an occupancy permit due to a review failure in FC. We are now asked to bear the financial burden of fixing FC’s mistakes. This is outrageous and is causing a heavy financial and mental strain on me and my family. I hope that someone in the County will come to their senses soon.

  14. Jim Bacon Avatar
    Jim Bacon

    Endangered Houses, Could you tell us more about your story? What happened to you?

  15. Endangered Houses Avatar
    Endangered Houses

    I am building a home with an approved FC building permit. We have passed all inpsections and were ready for the final Residence Use Permit (RUP). During the application process, we were surprised by a ‘hold’ citing building height violation. The County failed to notify us of this hold-another failure in the process. So now we are victims of regulatory changes, caught in the middle and forced to carry the economic burden. My position is simple- if FC approved the permit, it should stay approved. If FC want to change the regs then do it going forward and not penalize homes that they’ve already approved. That is only FAIR. We have filed a lawsuit against the County.

    If you agree with my position, then please support us by writing letters to the Chairman of the Board of Supervisor. Thanks-

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