Dear Editor, 

I’m writing you today to inform you that your backyard privacy is now at great risk. With the updated Fairfax County zoning ordinance taking effect July 1st, 2021, your neighbors may now build accessory structures up to 8 ½ feet tall at your fence line. While this may not appear to be an issue at first, treehouses are included in the scope of what is considered an “accessory structure”.

Now, your neighbor may build a treehouse against their fence, which may be adjacent to your yard. This treehouse may be as tall as 8 ½ feet at the highest point. If you are like my neighbor, they built a treehouse where the hand railing is just over 8 feet, two feet higher than the 6 foot privacy fence dividing our yards. This means when they are standing on the platform they appear to hover over the fence, easily 4 feet taller than the privacy fence. The backyard privacy I had cherished when I purchased my house is now lost. They have a clear view into my glass-walled basement and every other window on the backside of my house.

We took this original code violation to the Fairfax County Board of Zoning Appeals last year in June of 2020, and finally had our hearing in March and April of this year. The original zoning ordinance included the language “…existing or proposed accessory structures and uses on the property will not adversely impact the use or enjoyment of any adjacent property”. They sided with us and even empathized with us of our privacy being stripped away. But when July 1st rolled around and the new codes took effect, the treehouse was found by the county to be compliant, and my privacy no longer mattered.

Other than building a similar accessory structure in my backyard that becomes an eyesore to those neighbors, I have no recourse – and neither do you.

Jeffrey A Couillard

Falls Church, VA

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