Community Debates Proposed Restrictions To ‘Group Assembly’ In Private Homes

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A Virginia official says that a proposed ordinance restricting “group assembly” and “large gatherings” in neighborhood homes is only setting up a lawsuit on constitutional grounds. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

A Virginia official says that a proposed ordinance restricting “group assembly” and “large gatherings” in neighborhood homes is only setting up a lawsuit on constitutional grounds. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

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Fairfax County, Va. (CBS DC) – A Virginia official says that a proposed ordinance restricting “group assembly” and “large gatherings” in neighborhood homes is only setting up a lawsuit on constitutional grounds.

The proposed plan in Fairfax County looks to ban “frequent and large gatherings at neighborhood homes,” citing complaints spanning the last several years that such gatherings have allegedly created “parking, noise and other concerns” that “detract from the residential nature” of the neighborhood, Watchdog.org reports. The ordinance would also limit “group assembly” at residences to 49 people per day, and says that such groups will not meet more than “three times in any 40-day period.”

Fairfax County Supervisor Pat Herrity says the proposed amendment is simply a lawsuit waiting to happen.

“I believe the county is risking a lawsuit and/or a constitution challenge by interfering with peoples’ right to assemble,” Supervisor Pat Herrity said in a statement to Watchdog.org. “We should be focusing on dealing with the issues and not restricting groups’ rights to assemble.”

Although officials in Virginia’s most-populous county say that they have received numerous complaints, Herrity told Watchdog.org that “they haven’t even reached 1 percent of the thousands of complaints our Department of Code Compliance investigates a year.”

“This is yet another instance where we appear to be punishing the many for the actions of the few,” said Herrity, adding that there were a total of 6 complaints received throughout last year.

Community meetings on May 7, May 12 and May 19 will address the proposed revisions to the noise ordinance, and allow members of the community to give feedback on the possible limiting of persons allowed to gather in a residence.

John Whitehead, a civil-libertarian attorney at the Rutherford Institute, said that the proposed plan is “nefarious.”

“Broad enactments like these have governments assuming that private property is their property,” Whitehead said in an interview with Watchdog.org. “If you can’t determine what goes on at your own residence, you have surrendered your rights. The Constitution is founded on property rights.”

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