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A quirk in Fairfax County’s zoning regulations allows larger houses with smaller rear yards to be built on some corner lots and the McLean Citizens Association’s board of directors thinks that causes a host of problems and is unfair to nearby property owners on interior lots.

The MCA board of directors on Sept. 4 passed a resolution calling on county officials to tighten up those regulations.

County zoning rules require corner lots to be 25 feet wider than interior parcels in the same development in order to allow for a “second front yard,” the resolution read. While rear-yard setbacks for interior lots long have had to be at least 25 feet, county supervisors in 1978 changed the zoning ordinance to allow, in residential zones permitting up to eight dwelling units per acre, rear-yard setbacks on corner lots to equal smaller side-yard setbacks of adjoining interior lots.

Under those rules, rear-yard setbacks on corner lots in R-3 residential zones can be as little as 12 feet, and ones in R-2 cluster zoning areas can be just 8 feet wide – far smaller than the usual 25 feet, MCA leaders said.

Some developers in recent years have taken advantage of that ordinance change by building squarish houses on corner lots, which because of their increased lot widths tend to be more square-shaped than rectangular interior lots.

The resulting houses, which are about 25-percent larger than ones on interior lots, tend to have “rump” rear yards, significantly reduce the amount of natural light and privacy for adjoining properties, and create stormwater-runoff and erosion problems where none existed before, MCA’s resolution read.

Such rear-yard-setback diminutions “represent unjustifiable disparity in the treatment of interior lots as compared with corner lots,” according to the resolution.

Fairfax County zoning staffers have proposed changing rear-setback requirements for corner lots back to the previous standard of 25 feet under the county’s Zoning Ordinance Modernization Project.

MCA’s resolution urged county officials to require by the end of the first quarter of 2020 that rear-yard setbacks for corner lots be comparable to those for interior lots within the same subdivision. Because developers sometimes angle the location of houses on corner lots, the resolution also called for corner lots’ front and rear lot lines to be defined in accordance with the houses’ orientation on those properties.

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