Debate over home occupancy limits in Chesterfield

By Melissa Correa - bio | email
Posted by Terry Alexander - email

CHESTERFIELD, VA (WWBT) - Controversy is brewing in Chesterfield. The planning department wants to stiffen an ordinance involving how many people can live in one home. But a fair housing organization says the plan is racist.

"The federal and state laws are going to trump what Chesterfield implements," said Mike Burnette with Home Opportunities Made Equal.

According to HOME the county wants to implement an ordinance that imposes on Hispanics. The agency says this fact dates back to the original idea from two years ago.

"When Surry Wood brought this issue up, it was 'these people' are trashing our neighborhood. 'These people' and we could clearly see the original issue was brought to the county base on a Hispanic complaint," said Burnette.

But the county says the 40-year-old ordinance needs an upgrade due to a higher volume of complaints.

"The complaints that we're receiving are not specific to a race or religion," said Ted Barclay with Chesterfield County.

Right now, code compliance is working on a possible ordinance that would limit the number of adults in one home, based on the square footage of the home. It says that will cut down on health and safety concerns.

"You end up overwhelming the facilities. In case of a fire if could be difficult for that vast number of people to get out of the dwelling. You could end up with a lot of vehicles which could provide a parking problem in your community," Barclay said.

"Then enforce it based on trash. Enforce it based on the number of cars parked on the street. You can't enforce it based on family's and definitely not on who's living there," Burnette.

Investigations are based on complaints. If a group is found in violation, it would have time to correct the issue. Court and a hefty fine are a last resort.

The county is asking for a public hearing on October 16 to allow residents to comment, but that's not yet definite.

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