McLean Citizens Association Board members on a 19-10 vote (with three abstentions) approved a resolution that recommended several changes to a proposed Fairfax County ordinance regarding community gardens and farmers’ markets.
The proposed zoning-ordinance amendment would, among other things, add a new community-garden use; list standards to mitigate impacts on surrounding parcels; allow such gardens to be located both on the ground and on building rooftops; and adequately screen composting areas from adjacent residential properties.
MCA’s resolution suggests county officials should modify the zoning-ordinance amendment to:
• Limit the size of community gardens to 2 acres and allow ones of between 2 and 5 acres only with approval from the county’s Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA).
• Limit the cumulative size of all structures in community gardens to 250 square feet, again with exceptions approved by the BZA.
• Require community gardens to be located at least 15 feet from a site’s front property line and at least 25 feet from the other property lines in order to provide buffer space for adjacent parcels.
• Limit community gardens’ hours of operation to between 7 a.m. and dusk.
• Manage potential soil-erosion problems by having the Northern Virginia Soil and Water Conservation District recommend a conservation plan for community gardens of up to 5,000 square feet and require such plans for larger gardens.
• Grant community-garden permits for two years and allow them to be renewed by the zoning administrator.
• Allow such gardens as accessory uses only for single-family detached dwellings and limit gardens so designated to 100 square feet if located in those properties’ front yards. Front-yard gardens on those parcels should be located no closer than 15 feet to the front property line.
The MCA board’s debate on the resolution was spirited. Recording secretary Bruce Jones praised the group’s Planning and Zoning Committee for doing an “excellent job at arriving at a good compromise.”
Others saw the county’s zoning-ordinance amendment as onerous.
“I’d hate to see this kind of heavy-handed regulation imposed on people’s front lawns,” said member Louise Epstein.
MCA first vice-president Glenn Harris thought along the same lines, saying the county was “putting all gardens now as some kind of regulated use. That concerns me. It’s like some kind of unnecessary regulatory intrusion.”
MCA Tysons Committee chairman Sally Horn took a different tack.
“Mason District has a lot of problems in what goes on in people’s front yards,” she said. “It’s not a big deal to deal with front yards if you live in a single-family house in McLean.”