The Prince William County Board of Zoning Appeals delivered a trite but stern message to Alan Ray Hall last week: What goes up must come down, or at least be significantly altered.
Hall, an electrical contractor, spent more than a year building a large garage in his back yard at 8504 Stokely Dr. near Manassas Park.
County officials say Hall disregarded zoning ordinances on how large the garage could be, and have ordered him to significantly change it or tear it down.
That could cost more than the $8,000 he spent to build the two-story garage, Hall said, adding that he plans to fight the decision in Circuit Court.
"I don't want to tear it down," he said. "It's unfair. If you drive around, half of the houses have violations. I happen to be the unlucky one."
County planning officials say Hall's is a typical case in which a resident ignores county zoning regulations and builds a nonconforming unit.
"People are very well warned about what they can't do," said Sally Borman, clerk of the county Planning Commission and the Board of Zoning Appeals. "We told him it was way too big. It violated not only one but two zoning ordinances. He went ahead and built it anyway."
County regulations stipulate that the square footage of a garage be no more than 30 percent of that of the house, and that its height not exceed 15 feet.
According to a planning staff report, Hall's house has 2,250 square feet and his two-story garage has a combined area of 1,536 square feet -- or 68 percent of the total for the house. The garage also is three feet over the height limit.
The staff recommended that Hall's request to allow his garage to stand be denied.
The zoning board accepted the recommendation and, at a Jan. 25 public hearing, voted unanimously to have Hall restructure or tear down the garage.
"The whole thing of going to the hearing was a big joke," Hall said.
"They decided before I went there. Nothing I could have said would have changed their minds."
Hall argued at the hearing that the second level of his garage is not an additional floor but is a storage area, which would reduce the size of the garage to 768 square feet -- or 93 square feet over the limit.
But county officials said that any time a structure has a floor and a staircase -- as Hall's garage does -- it constitutes a second floor.
"In most cases, we would seriously consider the variance if we can determine there is a hardship," Borman said. "In this case, there was none. He knowingly built the garage in violation of the zoning law."
Hall said he tried to obtain a zoning approval and a building permit before construction began but was "frustrated" by the regulations. "They told me it could be only 30 percent of the house. I didn't think that was right," he said. "Property owners should have the right to build what they want."
But zoning board member Betty Eller disagreed at the hearing, saying, "If everyone had the same opinion and built what they wanted, then there would be no need for regulations."
"It is only 2 feet 8 inches over the height limit, and 93 square feet bigger than it should be," said Hall, who said he spent nearly every weekend for a year building the garage, with the help of friends. "I don't think what I asked for was unreasonable."