The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors on Jan. 24 unanimously upheld county officials’ denial of a McLean couple’s request to add a rear-yard swimming pool in an environmentally sensitive area.
Applicants John Zecca and Lindsy Noble, who own the nearly 1-acre lot at 917 Whann Ave., had asked supervisors to overturn a 9-2 decision by the Exception Review Committee (ERC) last September to deny their request for an encroachment exception under the accessory-structures provision of the Chesapeake Bay Preservation Ordinance.
The couple, who have owned the property since July 2020, filed an appeal on Oct. 6 last year in hopes of installing an in-ground swimming pool and spa with deck.
Their Langley Forest lot was created in 1947 and the property’s house was built in 1998, five years before officials designated a Resource Protection Area (RPA) that now encumbers about three-quarters of the lot. Almost 7,000 square feet of impervious surface now is in the RPA and 1,135 square feet of that is located in the seaward 50-foot buffer zone.
Had the Chesapeake Bay Preservation Ordinance applied to the site when the house was built, a maximum of 5,000 square feet of impervious surface would have been allowed in the RPA and none within the seaward 50 feet unless the ERC granted an exception, county officials said.
The owners’ proposed swimming pool would have added a further 998 square feet of impervious surface within the seaward 50 feet.
ERC officials determined granting an exception in this case would confer upon the applicants a special privilege, which would violate stipulations of the Chesapeake Bay Ordinance and might “establish a precedent for approving future similar applications.” It would have been the first such approval within the seaward 50 feet, said Camylyn Lewis of the county’s Department of Land Development Services.
The exception request also was based on conditions self-created or self-imposed by the applicants, who “had no reasonable expectation that a pool would be approved,” ERC members said. The pool would have been located about 10 feet from an unnamed tributary of Dead Run, officials said.
According to county archives, swimming pools previously had been located in that place since 1960, said the applicants’ attorney, Grayson Hanes. Eight neighboring swimming pools are within walking distance and four of those are in the RPA, he added. The only distinction about the applicants’ proposed pool was that it was to be placed within the seaward 50 feet, he said.
“Both the county staff and my clients’ engineers agreed that this was the only place on this property where this pool could be located,” Hanes said. “This satisfied the requirements of the code and the [Chesapeake Bay Act].”
Regarding the need to dispose of the pool’s water, the applicants were willing to connect the pool with an existing sanitary-sewer line or have the water trucked off site, he said.
“There’s no scientific evidence that this should not be approved,” Hanes said.
The applicants wished to eliminate a condition requiring them to remove bridges that provide access to about one-third of the property. The removals would need to occur so as not to exceed the 1,000-square-foot limit on impervious area within the seaward 50 feet, county staff said.
Supervisor John Foust (D-Dranesville) said protecting water quality was the main issue in the case. Although he thought reversing ERC’s decision would not have conferred a special privilege on the applicants, Foust agreed the applicants’ appeal was based on a self-created condition.
“They knew, or should have known, that adding any additional impervious area to the lot would be problematic,” said Foust, adding that “this lot is not suitable for the additional impervious area that would result from the proposed swimming pool.”
The applicants may not return with the same application within one year under the Chesapeake Bay Preservation Ordinance, county staff said.
But Supervisor Penelope Gross (D-Mason) said the applicants still had options.
“The denial of the appeal would not slam the door completely on any future proposal,” she said. “They would still have the opportunity to bring forward something that is different – a little different, maybe a lot different.”