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Friday, January 25, 2013

Citizen activists frustrated by lack of action to clean up Seven Corners

Piles of trash in a parking lot behind the Willston Center on Route 50.
Kay Cooper and Nancy Vorona, residents of Lake Barcroft, would like to see the Seven Corners area cleaned up. They’ve been urging Fairfax County leaders, VDOT, and law enforcement officials to take some action to get rid of the litter and illegal signs that have turned the once vibrant commercial center into an eyesore. Government officials agree the area needs to be cleaned up. Yet nothing is being done.

Cooper is beyond frustrated at the lack of action. “We spent hours on this and got nowhere,” she said. “It’s been like pulling teeth to get any information from anybody. It’s like they don’t really want to help us.”

Nearly a year ago Cooper and Vorona, in a spirit of neighborhood activism, started organizing a community-wide cleanup to occur on June 23, focusing on Leesburg Pike. They were inspired by the success of the huge annual Culmore Cleanup in Bailey’s Crossroads that started 10 years ago.

They knew they needed approval from VDOT, but didn’t think that would be an insurmountable problem. Boy, were they wrong.


An embankment next to Route 50 is full of trash.
A member of Mason Supervisor Penny Gross’s staff helped Cooper and Vorona file the paperwork, Mason District Police officers agreed to lend their support, and they began rounding up volunteers. But then William Dunlap of VDOT told them in May that the road use authorization form they had submitted was the wrong form. According to Dunlap, they had to submit four separate land use permit forms, including an application, work zone certification, note of permittee liability, and erosion and sediment control contractor certification.

They were also told they needed to purchase $1 million worth of liability insurance, hire a private contractor to provide security support, and set up “changeable message signs” two weeks in advance to warn the public about the clean-up event. Dunlap also told them VDOT  preferred having the event scheduled on a weekday, even though that would make it more difficult to recruit volunteers.

“Due to the complexity of the approval process, the liability issue, and the cost to us of time and money involved to secure approval, we have decided to put the proposed June 23 clean-up effort on hold until we can determine if an appropriate and cost-effective approach is possible,” Cooper responded in an email to Dunlap.

Dunlap also told Cooper that local police, and not VDOT, are responsible for removing illegal signs, even if  the signs are in the VDOT right of way. Meanwhile the Fairfax County Police Department said they’re not authorized to remove signs in the VDOT right of way. [VDOT and Fairfax County officials have been negotiating an agreement on enforcing the ban on signs, but nothing has been announced yet.]


At that point, Cooper obtained an Adopt-a-Highway permit from VDOT covering Leesburg Pike (Route 7) from Sleepy Hollow Road to Nevius Street and along Patrick Henry Drive from Route 7  to Arlington Boulevard (Route 50). People approved for the Adopt-a-Highway program are obligated to remove litter from their assigned stretch of roadway at least four times a year. Cooper, Vorona, and other volunteers have patrolled their area several times during the past few months, collecting many bags of trash and signs.

But their permit does not include the messiest areas in Seven Corners—the intersection of Route 50 and Little River Turnpike and the litter-strewn embankments along those roads. So Cooper proposed another solution: The Fairfax County Sheriff’s Office has a Community Labor Force (CLF) program that uses inmates to pick up litter, as well as carry out other work, such as landscaping and graffiti removal. Why not enlist them to clean up Seven Corners?

Well, that didn’t work out either. In response to a request from Cooper, Sgt. Matthew Ware, CLF supervisor, commended Cooper and Vorona for “taking pride for the condition/appearance of your community” but said “we are restricted from working there as well.”



Although the CLF picked up litter along those roadways last summer in partnership with VDOT and the Mason Supervisor’s Office, Ware said: “The CLF really doesn’t have the ability to perform a complete roadside clean-up (lacking traffic barriers/safety trucks/manpower). Randomly we will pick-up trash, signs, and other roadside debris but only in areas that the deputy feels the laborers can safely work.”

Cooper has spent countless hours filling out forms, writing to county and state officials, and speaking at meetings of the Bailey’s Crossroads Revitalization Corporation (BCRS), Mason District Council of Community Associations, and the Seven Corners Land Use and Transportation Task Force. Cooper was appointed by Gross to the Seven Corners Quality of Life Working Group, which is expected to submit recommendations to the task force this spring. A VDOT representative had been scheduled to speak at a BCRC meeting, but didn’t show up.

32 comments:

  1. VDOT is too busy taking the taxes paid by the thousands of seven corners residents for gas and spending it on the Coalfields Expressway and 460 expansion (2.4 billion dollars spent for 20,000 drivers).

    It is ridiculous and another sign that Richmond is no longer capable of spending OUR money well.

    FCDOT and Fairfax needs to end the subsidies of 9 billion dollars we feed Richmond every year and take back control of our own infrastructure

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  2. All of us including the Supervisor's Office should call the Governor's office and demand that Mr. Dunlop be reprimanded and/or dismissed. He is nothing but an incompetent bureacratic bully that is contributing to a hazardous health and safety condition in Mason District.

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  3. Perhaps we should ask for a reduction in our tax rates? There are many neighborhoods that do not have this problem of liter; why do we? If we are not getting equal treatment then our property tax rates should be lowered. Why do the police not stake this area out or install cameras so they can issue tickets for littering and get some revenue for the county?

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  4. Tysons Engineer1/25/13, 4:54 PM

    It isnt just a permit reviewer (Dunlap) who is causing the trouble. This is a systematic issue of Richmond trying to do anything it can to disrupt NOVA. It is for political reasons, it is for economic reasons, it is for spite reasons frankly.

    Sean Connaughton and Bob McDonnell have been awful stewards of our Transportation Department, using it to fund pet projects for massive corporations in the mountains, but neglecting the basic and cheapest maintenance elements that we in Fairfax now have to beg for.

    It is simply absurd, and best of all the department gains a far greater percentage per capita of its funds from us here in Fairfax. We simply should stop putting up with it and demand our money back in return for maintaining our own roads.

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  5. I for one have enjoyed a much shorter beltway commute due to McDonnell's plan and hope to pay less at the pump if he reduces the gas tax. Yes, we'll pay slightly higher sales taxes but EVERYONE eats and uses products toted around the beltway and they should pay for it.

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    Replies
    1. Of course, the trucks that deliver that stuff do pay fuel taxes, so it's not like the consumers aren't paying for those taxes passed through in the costs of the goods.

      McDonnell's plan hasn't yet been passed much less implemented, so he doesn't get credit for your shorter beltway commute. If you mean the HOT lanes, they predated his administration...

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  6. Little River doesn't intersect Rt 50, and certainly not at Seven Corners. Do you mean Rt 7 and Rt 50?

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  7. Actually, this is just part of the process. Remember, the purpose of government is to make everyone equal. It will just take a little while to make sure everyone (except of course, the more equal people) live in the exact same amount of garbage.

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  8. Perhaps the first mistake was asking for gov't permission in the first place.

    If 500 people can show up at a mall and burst into coordinated song and pageantry during a flash mob, surely a clean up squad in NOVA could do the same thing. Why go through the pain of permit applications, insurance and other nanny state requirements? Think like a traditional American libertarian (the philosophy, not the party) and just get 'er done! Surely some people interested in the cleanup have big pickups. Put the one with the biggest bumper at the back of the group with emergency flashers on and there's your traffic safety rig. What are the permit reviewers and police going to do? Arrest 100 people for cleaning up? Not likely, since they didn't bother the Occupy morons who weren't exactly helping to improve the areas they took over.

    Maybe if we stop looking to the gov't first for permission on every perfectly reasonable thing, the gov't won't feel obligated to provide bureaucracies to grant or deny permission.

    bazzinga

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    Replies
    1. Liberty for all1/29/13, 10:21 PM

      That, my friend, is the best comment here. Don't play their B.S. bureaucratic games, just go out and do it. Like you said, they aren't going to arrest a huge group of good citizens, right?

      Of course one risk is that the pinheads might actually fine them though. No good deed goes unpunished.

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    2. Love this. This is my motto. Also one idea is to get a couple vans - and have day laborers go out there and GET ER DONE!

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    3. TRUE THAT!

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  9. Thanks Annandale Blog, Kay and Nancy for explaining what happened to the litter clean up last year that Kay Cooper and Nancy Verona organized. Has VDOT been sued so many times that it requires a $1,000,000 liability insurance to clean up a piece of road? How are residents expected to help? Our government officials are perfectly fine letting things go to hell. Can’t residents even clean up the trash? Where is the agreement between Fairfax County and VDOT that allows for the County to clean its roads? Our board of supervisors is so afraid of taking responsibility for its roads so they can say it’s the state’s responsibility not theirs. They tell us we have to do whatever VDOT says and make no demands on VDOT or the state government. How is it that the self-governing Arlington County, City of Alexandria, the town of Vienna, McLean, Great Falls all in Fairfax County, don't have trash like Seven Corners and Annandale? The residents need to demand that the County take over the roads. Yes, that means having to pay more for new roads and their upkeep, but we will have the freedom to be innovative like Arlington. We are not getting any money now from the state and we are not getting any services either. I’m so tired of hearing we can’t do that because that’s the state’s responsibility, we can’t do that because of the state Dillon Law. It’s so convenient. We can’t take any responsibility for the deterioration of our communities because of all the red tape. If our County government does not start governing itself and take over the roads, neighborhoods, the businesses will continue to deteriorate right before our eyes.

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  10. This is just more proof that our government (take your pick - State, Local, Federal) is so laden with red tape that they can't be effective at all.

    We're trying to get a new school built in Mason District area - and it's bogged down in so much bureaucratic red tape that the best case scenario is that FCPS will have one built in about 8 yrs.

    Totally unacceptable as is this situation.

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    1. Our local government has become impotent at the mercy of a very ignorant and backwards state government and its own stubborn ego. Fairfax County needs to succeed as its own municipal entity or continue to be impotent as it is currently. Take your pic: impotence or effective and responsive government.

      Look at the streets and storefronts in Fairfax City, City of Alexandria and Arlington (has jurisdiction of its roads, and is not a municipality). When one crosses the Fairfax border line into anyone of these other municipalities, its like going from the Bronx to OZ. Even DC, that was once a very poorly run city with a negative bond rating and filthy streets boasts a better quality of life. It now has continuous annual financial surplus budgets, because everyone wants to live there and not in the slums of inside the beltway communities of FFX County.

      Our leaders in FFX need to get smart, get with the program and look to the successes of other failing communities that have pulled themselves out of a downward spiraling demise. We have fallen from grace and become a third rate place to live and I am sorry I ever invested in this County. Until the County reconciles that it is failing its citizens, it will only continue to loose its status as a place to do business and live.

      By doing nothing, people will continue to blame the immigrants, demographics, economics, etc and not look at the fundamental drivers that is keeping Fairfax County from thriving.

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  11. There is a good chance that some of the folks complaining just voted for more government, more red tape, more bureaucrats, and less personal liberty. Perhaps the folks throwing their mattresses away in someone else's front yard should take their garbage to the dump. Of course when Brayana Osinaga threw her mattress, moving trash, and condom wrappers in my front yard it was me that had to load it up and haul it to the dump, and pay for it. There are people in this world that throw their trash away in their neighbors yard, and there are people that don't. Unfortunately the folks that don't do that are now outnumbered in Fairfax.

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    1. And that is because we are a third rate county w no governing laws. That keeps business away, because workers do not want to live here. Regulating rifrap doesn't mean more government it means effective government that can enforce the regulation of poor behavior. If business moves in its because they know they can find good skilled labor force, that ratchets up home prices and the economy and then the crap has to move by default to a poorer district. And right now that is us. We lost Exxon Mobile. The FBI is looking at building their new headquarters in Prince William and we are left w the auto body shops and discount loan stores. The BOS needs to go to school to learn the economics of successful urban governments. If you like living in the discount county junkyard , FFX Coubty is for you!

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  12. Screw'em.

    Just go out and pickup the trash.

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  13. Well, this is an area of the state that voted Blue this election, for bigger government. People got what they've been voting for so enjoy.

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  14. Wow, in Maryland they allow you to just adopt a section of road and come get it done. None of this insurance and liability none sense.

    Good ole Yank ingenuity.

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  15. I think the easiest way around this is for Anonymous to organize Saturday walks. Instruct each participant to bring one large garbage bag every Saturday... You know, in case in rains. ;)

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  16. Apparently all the government organizations cannot do anything but prevent folks from cleaning up the government owned roadways.

    In other words, government wants the litter to stay there.

    Apparently government is protecting our freedom so well, we're not even free to pick up the trash on public property. And our government employees apparently want to be free of any responsibility as well, but they don't want to be free of their overly large paychecks.

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  17. Comment from California: Your problems are not unique - they are found across the nation. Bureaucrats infest all levels of society - they actually work hard to get where they are, rising higher in position and income than they are qualified for and generally receive pay and job security that is not justified based on their results. Pass the buck, CYA, blame anyone other than yourself for failures under their areas of responsibility. Police, City councils, newspapers, T.V., Radio - must have the support of the people to function or stay in business. Start small and work up ... you will be able to make a positive change. The squeaky wheel get the grease! Do not accept the unacceptable - go squeak.


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  18. How accurate you are. FFX should remove its welcome sign on Route 1 and replace it with:

    Welcome to the Litter Capital. Come back and visit us some time, and don't forget to leave us your litter!

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    Replies
    1. Too Funny and very true!

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  19. Honestly, do we have to politicize even 'trash? And in the meantime, the state of Virginia, which seems to be the huge stumbling block here, is headed by a Republican governor with a Republican state legislature. So, I'd pay attention to the splinter in my own eye, before I worry about someone else's.

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  20. Please see the announcement from our Mason District Supervisor's Office:

    "At Tuesday’s (1/29) Board of Supervisors Hearing, the Board authorized a public hearing on a proposed agreement with the VDOT Commissioner of Highways that would allow the County to remove signs located in the public rights-of-way. This public hearing is required before the program can be implemented. The date for the public hearing is set for Tuesday, February 26, 2013, at 4 p.m. at the Fairfax County Government Center, 12000 Government Center Parkway, Fairfax, VA 22035. If you would like to register to testify, sign up on-line at www.fairfaxcounty.gov/bosclerk/speaker_bos.htm, or call 703-324-3151; TTY 703-324-3903. If you are speaking on your own behalf you are given three minutes to speak; if you are speaking for a group you have five minutes.

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  21. The trash-strewn streets, parks and open lots, and grass road dividers that are overgrown and neglected... and local goverment officials point fingers at one another on whose responsiblility it is.

    I've lived in Annandale for close to 30 years and mostly I've enjoyed its quirkiness, but that quirkiness has turned into sloppiness; it wasn't like that before.

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  22. In short VDOT has no money yet they still want to control. It is hard for us to respect them when they let our communities fall apart yet also tie our hands from helping resolve the issue. My community has had run-ins with VDOT as well where we are stone walled behind expensive and time consuming bureaucratic rituals to perform simple tasks. It wasn't this way before Dunlap arrived on the scene though he's just part of the problem. How can he state those requirements for the cleanup with a straight face? Who made those requirements and instructed him that was the way to enforce them? CLEAN HOUSE VDOT. GET IN TOUCH WITH THE PEOPLE. FRANKLY, YOU SUCK AT IT RIGHT NOW. Fairfax County has similar individuals in the parkland system though they pale by comparison to VDOT. The simple answer is ignore them and do the work. Most folks do this anyway after they lose faith in process. I drive down Columbia Pike from Rt. 7 to downtown Annandale and the gutters, sidewalks and islands are ridiculous. Sidewalks are mostly covered, huge weeds grow out in the gutter cracks and, left unchecked for years, have created huge piles of dirt and debris,and NOBODY does anything about it YEAR AFTER YEAR. Trash is everywhere. Go outside the beltway and you don't see this nearly as much. Why is Mason District treated like a ghetto for services? Our government discourages anarchy in helping keep our communities clean but they also promote it with their inaction. So again I say ignore them. Clean whatever you want up that's public property despite County or VDOT land. Take control, don't ask for it. You see what asking gets you. I'd love to see how much money VDOT spends on cleaning Annandale year over year. It can't be much.

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  23. The mattress in the Willston Center parking lot (in the top photo) was still there on Feb. 21.

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  24. It is FFX Countys progressive marketing campaign for new advertising on public roadways! If you sell junk or cannot get rid of it, throw it on the right of away until someone who needs it picks it up, a homeless person can use it, or its just plane old good housing for rat nesting.

    For all we know VDOT may be charging the owner of the mattress a fee for using the right of way. Mr. Dunlap has been known for such creative revenue generators.

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  25. the problem is that you all keep voting in, penny gross and her crew. this includes the majority of police assigned to mason district. the laws are clearly there yet she does not enforce them, and ignores them. she believes in over crowding, littering, sex in the park, illegal garages on the streets. if she did not believe in these things how come she ignores them? i had one police officer tell me he would not enforce the parking laws becuase "he did not want to get in trouble". also how many of these mason district workers, including police, actually live in mason district? i'd suggest not very many. they get our money and have no vested interest. penny gross and her crew need to be voted out. yet how many of you complaining actually vote? i don't know how many times we've been to the mason district office it takes an act of god to get them off thier you know what to do any thing. they are single focused, simply minded and do not have the nterest of the tax payer in mind. i know that my neighborhood has shelters in it, and numerous subsidized housing. as a result the streets are strewn with garbage. the parks are loaded with garbage. the park, vdot and mason district needs a house cleaning. how many of you will step up to the plate and vote and vote for someone other than penny gross? do you know she is a resident of florida? does she even pay fairfax county taxes? how much does she make?

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