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Tuesday, April 17, 2012

County takes action against 'extreme yard sales' on Braddock Road


Appliances for sale at 4508 Braddock Road
Recent media attention on the “extreme yard sales” on Braddock Road may be having an impact. The Fairfax County Office of Code Compliance has issued a citation for 3908 Braddock Road, and is expected to cite 4508 Braddock this week.

Neither house had the usual array of refrigerators, washing machines, or other appliances or used cars cluttering their front yards last weekend. Those sales have been going on periodically for the past five to seven years, says neighbor Richard Zambito.

Several neighbors have complained over the past few months, but Zambito, vice president of the Parklawn Civic Association, made it his personal mission to shut down these illegal commercial operations.

After reports in the Annandale blog in December and January, other media outlets picked up the story, including MSNBC, NPR, the Washington Post, the Connection, Fairfax Times, and WMAL.

The county had been receiving complaints about too many yard sales at 3908 Braddock Road since September 2010, says Jeffrey Blackford, director of code compliance. “Investigators have gone out there several times, and the violations aren’t there,” he says. “Our challenge is we have to observe the violations.”

A couple of weeks ago, Zambito noticed a major sale going on there and called the county. “It was a fluke that I was home and got the inspectors got there immediately,” he says.

Blackford says a citation is expected to be issued to the owner, Stephen Smith, this week for using the yard for storage, parking on the grass, and having commercial sales on a residential property.

He says inspectors also observed yard sales at 4508 Braddock, as well as cars parked on the grass and numerous appliances in the backyard. A citation had been issued to the owner of the property, Ibrahim Abdullah, for having commercial sales on a residential property and using his property as a storage yard. [Abdullah lives in Arlington, where has been charged with numerous code violations. He was arrested in September for trying to bribe a code inspector.]

The Fairfax County inspector gave Abdulla 30 days to abate the problem on Braddock Road, Blackford says. “On a subsequent visit, an inspector observed that they abated the violation and the case was closed.” But within 10 days, the county received another complaint, and inspectors found “seven inoperable vehicles without proper tags.”

This time, the case was referred to the county’s attorney for court action. When this happens, a judge with the circuit court typically sets a deadline for the homeowners to bring the property into compliance.

The violator is usually is given 21 days to file a response. “If they don’t file a response, that means they are admitting guilt,” says Deputy Zoning Administrator Michael Congleton. A court hearing is scheduled, and the judge could set a deadline, 30 days for example, for the homeowners to resolve the problem. If they don’t comply, the judge could set a fine—typically $100 to $200 a day—until the violations are corrected.  

If homeowners dispute the finding, they have to give a compelling reason for being unable to meet the deadline, like a death in the family, and the judge could extend the deadline.

If they continue to ignore the court order, the judge can elevate the fines and order the county to clean up the problem and bill the homeowners.” For example, the county could tow the cars away and remove the appliances and wouldn’t have to compensate the owner.

According to Blackford, “a lot of people don’t realize you can only have two yard sales a year. Once you bring it to their attention, you don’t expect them to do it again.” The two cases on Braddock Road aren’t ordinary yard sales, he acknowledges. “When someone is selling three or four refrigerators, that seems to be more like a for-profit retail business.”

“We appreciate community members advising us about problems,” he says. “We depend on county residents to be our eyes and ears. We can’t be everywhere. We appreciate the community’s patience.”

4 comments:

  1. Way to go PCA and Richard Zambito.

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  2. It is ridiculous that it takes all this time and energy to do a citation and to get the owner to stop. It takes one individual to focus and be relentless on one issue to force county officials to do something. Thank you for your tenacity and I'm glad you are getting support from Mason District Council, your Citizens Association Parklawn, and news media.

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  3. It is a shame it took so much effort -- but thumbs up for Zambito ...

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  4. Ibrahim Abdullah is a slum lord!

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