Zoning Administration Division
Ordinance Administration Branch
12055 Government Center Parkway, Suite 807
Fairfax, Virginia 22035-5505

(703) 324-1314         Fax (703) 803-6372

October 17, 2003

Carl L. Sell, Jr.
Rose Hill Civic Association
P.O. Box 10891
Franconia, Virginia 22310

RE: Highland Estates Subdivision
Tax Map Ref: 82-3 ((13)) A1
Zoning District: R-3

Dear Mr. Sell:

This is in response to your August 27, 2003 letter to Michael Congleton in which you, on behalf of the Rose Hill Civic Association, asked for an explanation of how this office interprets the required street frontage requirements and problem soil restrictions contained in the Zoning Ordinance. You provided the Highland Estates Subdivision as an example of how subdivisions may be designed with irregularly shaped lots in order to increase density.

The referenced property is located in the R-3 Residential District, Three Dwelling Units/Acre and more than 30% of the property contains marine clay soil, which is a problem soil. The property is not subject to any proffered condition, special permit or special exception approvals and, therefore, may be developed by right subject to all applicable Zoning Ordinance, Subdivision Ordinance and Public Facilities Manual (PFM) requirements.

The R-3 District regulations include a maximum density limitation of 3 dwelling units per acre, a minimum average lot area requirement of 11,500 square feet, a minimum lot area requirement of 10,500 square feet and a minimum lot width requirement of 80 feet for interior lots and 105 feet for comer lots. By Zoning Ordinance definition, lot width is measured along a line parallel to the front street line and lying at a distance from the street line equal to the minimum required front yard. Although the Zoning Ordinance requires lots to have access to a public street, it is the Subdivision Ordinance, which requires public street frontage. Also, Par. 2 of Sect. 2-308 of the Zoning Ordinance provides, in pertinent part, that maximum density shall be calculated on the gross area of the lot, except when 30% or more of the total area of the lot is comprised of marine clays. In such cases, 50% of the maximum density shall be calculated for that area of the lot comprised of marine clay soils in excess of 30% of the total area of the lot. Chapter 4 of the PFM requires the submission of a geotechnical report for all subdivisions and site plans that include problem soils.

Given the presence of and the amount of marine clay soils on the referenced property, full density credit was not given for the entire subdivision pursuant to Sect. 2-308 and the submission of a geotechnical report was required by the PFM. Our records show that the Department of Public Works and Environmental Services (DPWES) approved a geotechnical report for the subdivision on February 10, 2003, and approved the Highland Estates Subdivision plat on August 25, 2003. In addition, all lots in the Highlands Estates subdivision were required to meet the R-3 District minimum lot area and lot width requirements and have frontage on a public street. Although Lots 3 and 4 are irregularly shaped, they meet all requirements. This office acknowledges that irregularly shaped lots have the potential of creating problems with respect to yard maintenance, boundary delineations, orientation and functional relationships between properties. However, if a proposed subdivision meets the minimum zoning and subdivision requirements, staff is compelled to approve the subdivision even if it results in lots that are oddly shaped. I would note that there is a long-standing history of subdivision approvals that include irregularly shaped lots and many examples exist throughout the County.

As you may be aware, the Board of Supervisors has recently expressed concern over irregularly shaped lots and has requested staff to re-evaluate this issue and return to the Board with recommendations on how the future creation of irregular shaped lots can be prevented or suitably modified. DPWES has been asked to respond to the Board request with assistance from Zoning Administration Division staff.

Should you require additional information, please do not hesitate to contact me at (703) 324-1374 or Jack Reale of my staff at (703) 324-1314.


William E. Shoup
Zoning Administrator



Dana Kauffman, Supervisor Lee District
Lorrie Kirst, Deputy Zoning Administrator for Ordinance Administration Branch
Jack Reale, Senior Assistant to the Zoning Administrator

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