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Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Seven Corners clean-up a victim of bureaucracy

Leesburg Pike in Seven Corners
A major effort to clean up Seven Corners planned for June 23 has been sunk by the bureaucracy. Lake Barcroft residents Nancy Vorona and Kay Cooper had put lots of work into mobilizing the community to get rid of the litter and illegal signs along Route 7. They hoped to eventually replicate the successful, annual Culmore Clean-Up event that draws a large crowd and corporate sponsors.

It’s not going to happen, though, at least not this year, because Vorona and Cooper were unable to secure the necessary approval from the Virginia Department of Transportation. The whole situation turned out to be a lot more complicated than they bargained for.

The two met with Mason Supervisor Penny Gross’ staff to find out the correct procedure for obtaining permission. They completed the forms and hand-delivered them to Lt. Riddle of the Fairfax County Police Department. “He got volunteers to help support our effort and signed off on the forms so we could then send the entire package to VDOT for approval,” Cooper says.

Then on May 21, a VDOT representative told them they had submitted the wrong forms. “He instructed us to refile using a different form plus three other land use forms about road control, liability, erosion (even though our proposal has nothing to do with erosion!), etc. We were told we would have to have liability insurance and that the police could not close roads under any but emergency circumstances so we would have to hire a contractor,” she says.

That would be too expensive to make the project feasible, resulting in “so much time and effort for absolutely nothing,” says Cooper. A VDOT official later informed them that VDOT doesn’t have the resources and staff to remove illegal signs unless they are deemed a safety hazard to motorists.

But there is some good news: The Virginia General Assembly recently passed legislation that authorizes the Commissioner of Highways to enter into an agreement with Fairfax County allowing the county to remove illegal signs from the VDOT right of way.

“This new law will take effect July 1, so it will be interesting to see if the county will take action to clean up these signs,” Cooper says. “It’s my understanding that other counties already had this arrangement with VDOT but there was a loophole for Fairfax.”

Cooper urges community members to put pressure on the county, through Gross’s office, to enforce the code against illegal signs and issue citations to violators. “If the county will rigorously enforce the code for a short period of time,” she believes, “word will get out that these signs are not tolerated and people will stop putting them up, especially if they have to pay fines of $100 per sign.”

Among the signs cluttering the area are advertisements for Wall2Wall Furniture, Mattress Outlet, Overstock Furniture, and Direct Furniture.

Aaron Frank, the land use specialist on Gross’ staff, said various county offices, including the county attorney’s office and the county executive, have formed a task force to figure out how to implement the new law.

Meanwhile, Cooper and Vorona have obtained an “adopt-a-highway” permit for a section of Route 7 and have begun picking up trash. Other volunteers are welcome to join them.

1 comment:

  1. The community as a whole owes these two people a great debt for their efforts to make the cleanup happen. Their initiative put the whole "Clean Up 7 Corners" campaign in the spotlight. When it's time for their cleanup campaign to hit the streets, everyone should help.
    Frank Sellers
    Falls Church