City planning commission sides with neighbors against home business

A group of Old Town Manassas residents have been trying to prevent a neighbor from running a graphic arts business out of his home.

Chris Hilburn wanted permission from the city to allow up to four employees to work out of his house, located at 9309 West St.

But with about 20 neighbors present to complain about the hassle, Manassas Planning Commission voted 4-0 last Wednesday not to recommend the special use.

Hilburn, who could not be reached for comment, has yet to file an appeal to the City Council, said senior planner Yvonne Conatser.

Allowing Hilburn to have four employees working out of his home would hurt the character of the surrounding neighborhood, said Nancy Lee Breeden, a member of the Planning Commission.

“A home business should be a very, very small operation, for obvious reasons,” she said.

Not only was the number of employees larger than what the commission was used to, but Hilburn was planning to travel abroad.

“He wasnt going to be there most of the time to make sure it was going to be run according to the conditions required by the (city) staff,” Breeden said.

The white house is a notable building on the street. Decades ago, a Hollywood film crew filmed movie star Helen Hayes on its second-story porch.

At times, some of the neighborhoods residents were “really emotional” while speaking at the Wednesday night meeting, said Jeff Pickard, whose Battle Street home is behind Hilburns house.

And yet the arguments they offered were simple — that the business had too many employees and that those employees would need parking spaces on the property.

“When I spoke, I said I was not as opposed to a home business. I was more concerned with the scope of the business, the four employees. And then there was the paving of that much of the yard,” Pickard said.

When Pickard built his home in 1992, the Architectural Review Board required it to be moved back from the street.

“Consequently, I have a very large front yard and a very shallow back yard, which means I would be overlooking a parking lot. And that would be my chief objection to it,” Pickard said.

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