A Fairfax County man who tried to bypass his subdivision's regulations against satellite dishes by buying one disguised as a striped picnic umbrella will be allowed to keep the unit after all, officials have ruled.
"I'm flabbergasted," said Max Parsons, a 35-year-old Coast Guard statistician. "I'm just getting over the shell shock right now."
Parsons said he was told of the decision last week, just one day before a case concerning the dish was to go to trial in Fairfax County Circuit Court.
The Board of Trustees of Franklin Farm, a planned subdivision in western Fairfax, brought suit against Parsons after he refused to meet an Oct. 4 deadline to take down his umbrella-shaped satellite dish.
The trustees have since voted to amend subdivision covenants to permit the dishes if they are properly screened from view, according to Ellen Freihofer, chairman of the Franklin Farm architectural review board.
Under the new guidelines, residents may install dishes if they can screen them from ground-level view. "The major objection was that neighbors don't want to look at it, but if nobody can see it, it doesn't matter if you've got it," said Freihofer.
After Parsons heard of the new guidelines, he proposed that he build an $8,000 second-story deck on the back of his split-level house and sink the electronic picnic table into a well in the deck, so no one would be able to see it from the ground.
Freihofer's committee ruled last Wednesday that the proposal met the new guidelines and gave the go-ahead for the deck.
Parsons' problems began last summer when he discovered that Fairfax County allows residents to have dishes as long as they obtain building permits and meet certain requirements, but that his own community of Franklin Farm did not.
But Parsons, a self-described "Star Trek" freak who likes to watch science fiction movies, wanted access to the approximately 150 television channels he knew he could receive if he had a dish. In July, Parsons thought he finally had discovered the perfect solution to his problem -- an Arlington company that sold satellite dishes hidden inside patio furniture.
He was happy, but the neighbors said Parsons' electronic picnic table was ugly.
In September, the Franklin Farms Board of Trustees gave Parsons 30 days to remove the dish, and threatened to sue if it stayed. Parsons refused to remove it. "This is a matter of principle," he said. "I'm a big boy. I know the consequences."
Parsons' lawyer, James C. Brincefield Jr., said yesterday that the outcome was fair. "Having a compromise like this worked out in a case that was so widely publicized, I hope . . . will have the effect of encouraging people to be reasonable in the administration of their covenants," Brincefield said.