Update 12:45 p.m. Tuesday, March 6, 2012
The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors decided Tuesday to defer action on a controversial amendment that would place restrictions on the size of dance floors in local restaurants.
Around 11 a.m. Tuesday, the board announced its intent to vote to defer a public hearing scheduled for 4 p.m.
The hearing was called after numerous objections from the county’s dance community.
Supervisor Michael Frey (R-Sully), chairman of the Development Process Committee, voiced his intent to bring a revised proposal to the board before its August recess.
Update 9:32 p.m. March 1, 2012
Under deadline pressure from the Board of Supervisors, the Fairfax County Planning Commission recommended Thursday night that the board defer a vote on an amendment that would limit the size of dance floors in certain establishments.
The Planning Commission heard from hundreds of residents, business owners and other interested individuals, including a Change.org petition that collected more than 1,500 signatures and a Facebook group, in opposition to the amendment.
“We asked for electronic comments, and we certainly received them,” said At-Large Commissioner James Hart. Several people in the audience clapped, but they were swiftly reminded that Thursday night’s meeting was not a public hearing.
The amendment was to limit the size of dance floors in eating establishments to 150 square feet or one-eighth the size of the eating area, whichever was smaller. Planning Commission staff believed “limiting the size of dance floor would be important to minimizing negative impacts,” Hart said.
However, other commissioners argued there were other issues at hand, including the proximity of dance establishments to residential areas and, in some cases, inadequate parking.
The fast-tracked issue seems to have initially stemmed from the Board’s action to deny the extension of a special use permit for Fast Eddie’s, an establishment on Richmond Highway. The Washington Post reported Fairfax County code enforcement and police officials have also dealt with several other establishments across Fairfax County — including Picante in Chantilly, where David Norton, who initiated the Change.org petition, teaches dance.
Several Planning Commission members lamented there was not enough time to adequately study the issue, despite the hard work of staff members.
The commission discussed the issue for almost an hour, through several competing motions to defer the issue, vote on the issue or change the recommendation for the dance floor size requirements.
The commission’s recommendation to defer is just that – a recommendation. The Board of Supervisors could still vote on the matter; it appears on their March 6 agenda.
Original Story: 'Petition to 'Save Dancing in Fairfax County' Gets 1,500 Signatures' - 7:30 p.m. Thursday, March 1, 2012:
Nearly 1,500 residents have signed a petition protesting a proposed limit on dance floors in Fairfax County, an amendment the Fairfax County Planning Commission will vote on tonight.
According to the March 1 meeting agenda, the commission is considering amending Chapter 112 (the Zoning Ordinance) to revise the definition of an eating establishment to limit entertainment so it is “clearly accessory and incidental to the principal dining function.”
A separate, new “public entertainment establishment use” would be created to handle the zoning of entertainment venues, “wherein the primary occupation is to provide entertainment to adult customers to include such activities as dancing, billiard/pool, karaoke, hookah, and other similar entertainment activities.”
In many cases, these type of establishments would only be allowed through a special exception by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors.
The Commission is expected to make a decision on the amendment tonight, and the Board of Supervisors will weigh in during their meeting March 6.
The Change.org petition regarding the proposed amendment says it would limit all dance floors to 150 square feet "(into which they feel we can cram 50 dancers = 18 inches x 18 inches per dancer!)," the petition author wrote.
"This problem is not only going to be big but it will literally cause all dancing in Fairfax County to either cease or go underground," the petition says.
The amendment would also prohibit dancing and billiard/pool tables in the same establishment.
"If individually provided the space made available for dancing shall not exceed the lesser of 150 square feet or 1/8 of the floor area available for dining; or one billiard/pool table may be permitted in a dining area containing up to 4000 square feet and no more than 2 billiard/pool tables for a dining area containing 4000 square feet or greater," it says.
At time of publication, Fairfax County officials had not returned Patch's request for comment.
David Norton of Bethesda, Md., who started the Change.org petition and set up a Facebook group to “Save Dancing in Fairfax County!" was not reachable prior to Thursday's meeting, but wrote on the Facebook page that he had spoken to Fairfax County officials who seemed willing to make changes to the amendment.
“THE BATTLE IS NOT OVER: Regardless of tonight's decision it still goes to the board of Supervisors. Two of the Supervisors are actually trying to push this through so they will be our biggest obstacle!,” Norton wrote on Facebook.