Mount Vernon Supervisor T. Farrell Egge has asked the Fairfax County zoning staff to determine if laws can be "tightened to prohibit or limit" the size of skateboard ramps.
Egge's request was in response to a recent petition by 51 residents of the Wellington Estates neighborhood, next to the George Washington Memorial Parkway about four miles south of Alexandria, who oppose a large skateboard ramp recently built in the back yard of a house on West Boulevard Drive. The petition criticizes the size, noise and safety aspects of the ramp.
According to Michelle Weinhagen, who had the ramp built for her two teen-age sons, the ramp is about 11 feet high, and 45 by 16 feet wide. She said it cost $5,700.
"I called the Fairfax County zoning office two times before I bought the house and one time after I bought the house to make sure I could put the ramp up," Weinhagen said. She bought the house in May and moved in July 30.
The county zoning staff told her it had to be at least 15 feet from each side property line and as far from the rear property line as it is high, she said. She had the ramp built to those specifications three days after she moved to the house.
Egge, in asking for the tougher zoning regulations at the Sept. 14 Board of Supervisors meeting, passed around a picture of the ramp taken by the county zoning staff.
"These structures are not only unsightly and noisy, but they create a nuisance to the neighbors . . . by the continuous presence of kids being attracted to the structure," Egge said at the meeting.
Gerald Hyland, who is Egge's opponent in the fall election for Mount Vernon supervisor and a member of the county Board of Zoning Appeals, also received complaints about the ramp. He visited the ramp and on Aug. 28 wrote a letter to the Office of Comprehensive Planning, citing a zoning code violation.
"I believe this case requires a reexamination of rules for permitted accessory structures," Hyland wrote. " . . . I urge you to consider proposing an amendment to the Zoning Ordinance to prohibit skate board ramps in residential zones."
Weinhagen said zoning officials visited her house about seven times in August. Two weeks ago she received a letter from the zoning office saying the ramp violates an ordinance that says no accessory structure shall cover more than 30 percent of the last 25 feet of the rear yard.
She now has about 30 days to take about one foot off the rear of the ramp, which she plans to do. Bill Shoup, assistant director of the zoning administration division, confirmed that she had been cited for a violation.
"If I had known about this rule beforehand, I would have just moved the ramp over one foot and it would have saved me a lot of money," Weinhagen said.
"The problem with these accessory uses is that there are just so many provisions applicable . . . that it may have just been overlooked" by the staff that Weinhagen talked to, Shoup said.
Bart Wheatly, who lives next door to Weinhagen, said the ramp "doesn't bother me at all, it's not noisy at all. The kids are real well behaved."
Another neighbor, who asked not to be named, said she is very opposed to the ramp. "It may not be loud enough to make me deaf, but it's very disturbing."
Weinhagen said she has strict rules for the ramp, which is enclosed with a six-foot-high fence that is padlocked from 7 p.m. to 10 a.m. She locks a chain across the base of the ramp at night so it cannot be used, and she planted two 15-foot conifer trees in front of the ramp.
She said that no more than four children have ever been at the ramp at one time. She has the parents of children using the ramp sign a waiver that says she is not liable for injuries, and she said children must wear full protective gear and may not use the ramp if they have used drugs or alcohol within 24 hours.