Max Parsons, the Fairfax County man who tried to bypass his subdivision's regulation against television satellite dishes by hiding his inside a back yard picnic table umbrella, is in trouble again.
The latest dispute concerns an agreement reached last fall, under which Parsons' planned community of Franklin Farm said the electronic umbrella could stay, but only if Parsons screened it from ground-level view.
In an effort to comply, Parsons built a new $7,000 deck, several feet off the ground, onto the back of his split-level house, and sank the picnic table rig into a deck well. He also tried to screen it with wooden fencing. Construction was completed last month.
Satisfied that he had "more than" complied with Franklin Farm requirements, Parsons plugged his $3,000 dish back in, and happily returned to his favorite pastime: watching old science fiction movies, the kind he cannot receive on ordinary television.
All was fine, Parsons said, until last Wednesday, when a group of Franklin Farm officials dropped by his house to inspect the new umbrella arrangement. They found several views of the umbrella objectionable, including two in which the rig could be seen poking above the fence.
To correct the problem, H.L. MacPherson III, the lawyer for Franklin Farm Foundation, suggested that Parsons add more fencing, lower the umbrella or sink the picnic table rig several feet farther into the deck. The community gave Parsons a deadline of last Sunday to correct the problem, or dismantle the rig.
So far, Parsons hasn't complied. "I'm more than frustrated," he said. If Parsons adds more fencing, he claims he won't be able to pick his favorite channels out of the sky.
And, if he lowers the picnic table, he'll lose the deck effect he sought to achieve. "The entire concept was built around the electronic picnic table -- the fact that it was fashionable, that it was an attractive unit."
Neither Parsons nor community officials are willing to predict what might happen next. Said Parsons: "These people are going for blood."
Said MacPherson: "We aren't worried about the short term, the next couple of days, but we are worried about the long term."
Sharon Austin, executive director of the Franklin Farm Foundation, declined to estimate how much the Parsons picnic table dispute has cost the community, but said people are willing to pay to have their subdivision guidelines enforced.
Said Austin: "People here don't like to take after their neighbors in a legal manner -- they really don't. But, in this case . . . . "