Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Wait and See Approach

County taking 'wait and see' approach By KEITH WALKER kwalker@potomacnews.com Tuesday, January 10, 2006 RELATED Zoning enforcement on hold If Prince William County adopts a new law to prevent overcrowding in area homes, it won't have the word consanguinity in it. "We're going to use words I can spell," said Prince William Board of County Supervisors Chairman Sean T. Connaughton, R-at large. Last month, the Manassas City Council amended a city ordinance to define what a family is to try and prevent residential overcrowding. The amendment defines a family as "two or more persons related to the second degree of collateral consanguinity" plus one non-related person, despite the home's legal occupancy limit. After the City of Manassas passed its amendment, the Prince William Board of County Supervisors asked the county staff to examine the possibility of a similar ordinance for the county, and to study the legalities of such an ordinance. The county is also studying a similar ordinance recently passed in Herndon, said Supervisor John Jenkins, D-Neabsco. "We wanted them to craft a proposal change to our county ordinance that would define family, so that we could get a handle on the number of people living in a single-family home," said Jenkins, who has some overcrowding in his district. Fair housing and civil rights groups got involved after Manassas passed the amendment. The American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia announced it was prepared to challenge the ordinance in court, calling it an "unconstitutional government infringement." Jenkins said the brouhaha about the Manassas ordinance has the county supervisors somewhat wary. "With the change that we have now and the status in Manassas, I think our position on it is going to be 'wait and see,' " Jenkins said. Though they vary by neighborhood, the county has ordinances that govern how many people can live in a house with a given square-footage. "Generally we say no more than three unrelated people in a household," Connaughton said. Prince William County zoning officials enforce the code, Connaughton said. When they find a house with numerous people living in it, they could issue tickets "then and there," but it's often hard to determine who is related, Connaughton said. "I think what Manassas was doing was trying to come up with a better way to enforce current requirements," he said. "Everybody is looking for better enforcement tools when it comes to overcrowding." Connaughton said the more pressing problem in the county is the conversion of single-family homes into apartment houses. "We are seeing houses being put on the market where their ability to be converted into apartments is being touted," Connaughton said.

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