Wednesday, January 11, 2006


The Manassas City Council said last night that it will take steps to repeal an ordinance banning extended family members from living in the same house.

City officials suspended enforcement of the measure last week after civil rights groups complained that the ordinance targeted Hispanic families.

The ordinance, adopted Dec. 5, changed the definition of family in the city’s zoning code so single-family homes were restricted to immediate relatives, even if the total number was below the legal occupancy limit.

The council sent the amended ordinance to the local planning commission, which must make a recommendation whether to repeal it. The council then will act on the planning commission’s recommendation.

City officials have said that the rule was devised to address problems associated with overcrowding. But council members have said it was designed to curb parking problems and strains on public schools and social services that stemmed from the illegal alien population.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia had said it would challenge the ordinance in court. It called the ban “an unconstitutional government infringement on the right of family members to live together” and was mostly, if not solely, being used against Hispanic families.

Kent Willis, the state ACLU’s executive director, said the city is “headed in the right direction” in repealing the measure and that the city should be commended for acting so quickly.

“The problem is that the ordinance should have never been passed in the first place,” Mr. Willis said. “It is unfortunate that it was ever placed on the books.”

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