The Prince William Board of County Supervisors will vote in April on a proposed amendment to allow parking on gravel on properties of less than one acre, modifying Section 32-300.02 of the county code entitled “Accessory Uses.” I’d link to that code section if the county website wasn’t continuously horked up and nearly useless for the purposes of finding important information about Prince William County Government, so readers will have to take my word for it that right now, creating a gravel driveway is not permitted under current zoning rules and this proposal seeks to remove that restriction. I think the current rule is a good rule for the community we have, and that it’s not only unnecessary to change it but that doing so could adversely impact the way our community looks and feels.
Most of the instances I’ve seen where someone breaks the rules and expands an existing driveway with a gravel apron for additional parking happens with overcrowded houses. With ten or more people in a house, the on-street parking tends to fill up rather quickly, and sometimes the solution for these tenants has been to start laying gravel in the yard to accommodate some of the extra vehicles. Houses that aren’t overcrowded don’t tend to need to expand off-street parking for four additional vehicles.
So what would a change to this rule accomplish? Quite simply, it would make it easier to overcrowd single family residences. We’ve had enough of that. Just a few short years ago, before the passage of the Rule of Law Resolution, residential overcrowding reached outrageous levels that affected far too many of us. One of the things that marginally helped to make overcrowding happen were rampant violations of other zoning laws, such as those which regulated parking in grass, and parking on gravel. Since it was so tremendously difficult to enforce residential overcrowding laws as written, having other zoning enforcement opportunities helped to address the larger problems that were far more challenging. Without these opportunities to put rampant lawbreakers under an array of scrutiny, the next time we face such problems we’ll have a pretty powerful hand tied behind our backs.
If you can’t stop the fifteen unrelated people crammed into a three bedroom house who falsely claim they are related through overcrowding laws, you can start scrutinizing the parking, garbage disposal, noise, and every other impact in the hopes many of the tenants will get the message and stop being such a blight on the community. It’s not a perfect solution, but constrained as we are by liberal activist law firms, determined lawbreakers, and the realities of the legislative process, it’s about all we’ve got. We dearly need each and every tool at our disposal.
So take some time and contact your Supervisors. You can get to them all by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org . Tell them that relaxing zoning rules helps us not at all and puts our community at risk. This decision can’t be made solely from the perspective of where we are now, but where we again could be.
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