There are homes in Fairfax County, VA that are too tall. That’s what the building inspectors who did a sample inspection discovered after a county resident filed a complaint that his neighbor’s roof was too tall. Seems that there were enough of the sample that came in over the county’s 35-foot-high maximum that the inspectors feel there might be thousands of homes over the limit in the county. The problem is that those homes were granted permits by the county already, some of them years ago.
In Fairfax, the excessive heights came to county planners’ attention this year when a homeowner complained that the roof of his neighbor’s house appeared too tall, said Jenkins, who oversees building permits. A sample inspection of homes under construction found multiple violations, he said, leading him to conclude that the problem is widespread. But he said it would be too expensive to measure the height of every mansion built in the county in recent years.
“We did enough sampling to understand there is a problem,” he said, citing “million-plus dollar homes with towering roofs.”
“The plans went through showing heights in excess of 35 feet, and they weren’t caught,” Jenkins added.
What’s really turned this into a controversy is that the county stopped issuing occupancy permits to builders who had submitted the plans and applications, had them approved by the county and built them according to those permits. Fairfax officials are now in a quandry over what to do about those homes.
Well, let me make this easy for those officials: the fact that the homes were given permits by the county and then built in accordance with those permits does not place any liability on the builder or homeowner for the county officials screwing up the inspections. In fact, it lifts any liability that might have accrued because the county is supposed to be the final arbiter of whether something is permissible or not. If the county hosed it and made the wrong decision, then the county gets to live with the consequences of that failure.
The County Board should pass an ordinance stating that any house currently occupied (in the legal occupancy sense) is granted an exemption to the height restriction and may remain as it is. No further height additions can be made but no alteration must be made to shorten it and any maintenance required to keep the house at its current level is allowed. Additionally, any house that had plans submitted, approved, permitted, and has already begun construction must be allowed to complete the construction with the height as shown on the plans submitted.
The onus to correct the mistakes of the county’s officials should not rest on the shoulders of residents who relied on the county to accurately assess their application.
The county should immediately state, explicitly, how they expect the roof height to be calculated and should take the steps necessary to guarantee that when they permit an application, the roof height is not in excess of the limit. Be up front with everyone that they’ll be checking on it and no permits will be issued if violations are found.
Do the right thing, Fairfax. It was your error in issuing permits without confirming all of the details were met. Own up to it, allow people who got permits to go their way, and make sure everyone knows the game’s going to be played differently in the future.
Update (8/8/2006) – Welcome, readers from Historic Vienna! May I also point you to this story about my stance on the Fairfax County Board’s decision on what to do now? Thanks!
The attack on the Seattle Jewish Federation office that killed 1 and wounded 5 more was clearly and admittedly done by a man who acted based on his objections to Israel’s actions in the middle east. This wasn’t some random drive-by shooting, it was an act of terrorism. That it was likely performed by someone acting alone does nothing to mitigate this fact. But the story wasn’t even an hour old and the MSM began injecting the term “mental illness” into its coverage. I caught that immediately when I heard the story and I felt, as I do now, that the reporters seemed to be reaching for any reason to not refer to this as terrorism.
Hugh Hewitt sums up perfectly my thoughts on the matter:
There is a continuum in the media’s coverage of terrorist incidents that runs from John Hinkley through Sirhan Sirhan and Oswald to McVeigh and the 19 of 9/11. Each was a political act, though in Hinkley’s case there wasn’t a “political” motive. But the “mental state” of a terrorist doesn’t help the public sort through the implications of a terrorist act. Any crime of violence done to avenge a political grievance is an act of terrorism. Haq’s murder of at least one employee of the Jewish Federation is an act of terrorism. What the public needs to know is the likelihood of other such acts being committed by similarly situated individuals. Introducing “mental illness” so early in the story is an invitation to say “lone whacko,” and leave it at that. Mistake number one.
There is also a continuum in the amount of organization that surrounds a terrorist, and those with the most organization are state actors, like Lenin and Saddam. The 19 of 9/11 had a lot of organization, and the London bombers of 7/11/05 had enough to kill scores. We don’t know if Haq had any, or even if there were people in his life suspicious of his direction who did not act on it. We don’t know if there was a particular “trigger” or a long thought out plan. If Haq acted alone there will be a temptation to again declare “lone whacko” and leave it at that. Mistake number two.
Cold-blooded killers working in a highly organized network are much more of a threat than voice-hearing lone whackos. But as yesterday proved, the latter can savage a small group and through them a community and a country. It isn’t enough for the vaunted MSM to declare “lone whacko” and move back to the churlishness of the Israelis.
We need to find out a great deal about Ha[q]. Quickly.
We are finding out more as the days progress. I do hope that the media isn’t going to simply accept at face value the carefully-worded statement of the Islamic Center up there that they “disassociate” Haq’s actions from their teachings. I know if some rabid, bible-thumping Christian had done the same to a Planned Parenthood office the media would be digging at his local church pretty heavily. Let’s see if they can bring themselves to be consistent.