Thursday, August 29, 2013

Developer cuts off water to 96-year-old homeowner who refused buyout



Jeanne Simmons

After AvalonBay purchased the Hillwood Square community in Falls Church earlier this year, all the residents met the Aug. 23 move-out deadline—except for one.

The remaining holdout is Jeanne Simmons, a 96-year-old former teacher who has lived in the development for 57 years. On Aug. 28, the developer gave Simmons a five-day notice to vacate her home at 2848 Franklin Walk. She has no plans to move.

On Aug. 24, the Falls Church Department of Public Utilities complied with a request by the developer to cut off water service to Simmons. Since then, she’s had to rely on friends bringing her bottled water for drinking, cooking, bathing, and cleaning, reports her son, John Simmons.

“Each time she needs to flush the toilet, she carries two one-gallon jugs of water upstairs, one at a time, then fills a bucket with the two gallons and pours the water into the toilet to force a flush,” he says.

AvalonBay plans to tear down the 160-unit townhouse development and build 461 garden-style apartments on the 19-acre site. More than two-thirds of Hillwood Square homeowners voted in favor of the sale, and AvalonBay’s deal to purchase the property for $38 million closed in June.

Simmons in her younger days.
Jeanne Simmons “has owned her home free and clear for over 50 years and insists it is not for sale and the developer has no right to make her move,” says her son, John Simmons, who grew up in Hillwood Square and now lives in Denver.

The eviction is “frivolous, as she does not owe the developer any rent,” he says, “but she will still have to go to court to contest the eviction proceedings,” which he says could cost over $300,000.”

She claims her two-bedroom home has been valued at $531,000, while AvalonBay is demanding she accept a buyout of $228,000. She is not interested in selling at all, and “is ready to put up the entire value of her home to defend her rights as a homeowner,” John Simmons says.

John says his mother “is still bright, sharp as a tack, still walks and cooks, and holds a great conversation in French with me.”

Jeanne Simmons is of French/Vietnamese heritage and taught French at St. Michael’s School in Annandale and Washington, D.C., public schools, says John, a former student at St. Michael’s.

During World War II she lived with a Russian family in China while working for the U.S. military. After Mao took over, she fled on the last ship out of China, an American merchant marine vessel, and later married an officer on that ship, Robert Simmons.

Hillwood Square was developed during the Roosevelt Administration to house workers at a  torpedo factory in Alexandria. It was one of the few developments in Northern Virginia organized as a cooperative.It is in Fairfax County adjacent to the City of Falls Church.

John says his mother is “committed to challenging the sale [of the development] all the way back to round 1. This community was set up to be operating in perpetuity. It was not set up to encourage speculation.”

Residents have gotten $178,000 to $288,000 depending on whether they have one, two, or three bedrooms. Many former residents haven’t been able to find comparable housing for that amount around here and have had to double up with relatives or move out of the area.

According to John, AvalonBay started developing and marketing the new apartment project even before the vote by residents. “It was a very vitriolic campaign” to get residents to agree to the sale, he says. “It was crammed down their throats, with all kinds of strategies to chip away at people’s resolve. It was a campaign of manipulation and deceit to divide people and plain out rig the vote.”

He says people from Fairfax County’s department of Adult Protective Services tried to help his mother explore alternative places to live but she declined to consider them. “They were very understanding. They didn’t want to be used by anyone to bolster the will of a developer,” John says. “They respected her rights to stand up as a homeowner.”

49 comments:

  1. Please let us know who to help financially if it comes to that or in other ways. Bravo to this woman to stand up to bullying.

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  2. Jeanne is ready to borrow against her home to pay all her legal costs, since she has no debt at all. Figure a $30,000 retainer against billings north of $60,000. At least for this amount, there will be extensive discovery and everybody will get to see what really happened here. The contact at Hillwood Square for this is Pierre Joligard at members@hillwoodsquare.com Thank you for asking. Any advice or referrals would be most appreciated.

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    1. We already has a lawsuit that went to the courts and the opposition lost miserable. 159 of us are gone. What is expected for the the rest of us who are long gone? We have the legal votes and we voted to sell. You can ask Judge Devine of Fairfax County Court, who presided over the case in June. The courts ALREADY ruled. Call the courthouse for more information.

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  3. its a coop. there is no "free and clear" the proper majority of the other residents voted to sell the property. The WHOLE property. She is a squatter. She has no more legal right (and arguably no more moral right) than a tenant in a house that an owner wants to redevelop. There are loads of 2BRs for a quarter of a million, not THAT far away.

    Heck there are much newer 3BR houses for 350 or so in Annandale.

    I have no sympathy. Sorry. I have sympathy for the homeless. For those who can't find any housing around here. but not for her. Take your quarter million and be grateful.

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    1. WOW!!!!

      YOU ARE OBVIOUSLY WITH THE TEAM OF THIEF'S WHO PROBABLY PAID A FEW PEOPLE UNDER THE TABLE A LITTLE EXTRA DIRTY MONEY TO CLOSE THIS DEAL.....

      38 Mill for this property in this area is an outright steal!! I SMELL FOUL PLAY!

      DON'T WORRY>> WHAT DOSNT COME OUT IN THE WASH, WILL COME OUT IN THE RINSE!!!

      GOD BLESS JEANE SIMMONS!!!!

      Of course you don't have any sympathy... You don't even have your facts strait!

      There is nowhere in falls church, annandale, fairfax, or anywhere close where you can find a comparable 2 bedroom.

      Where not talking about some condo or apt here.

      This is a 2 bedroom, 2 story townhouse with a private fenced back yard and a nice sized front yard as well.

      read the article! shes been free and clear probably longer then your money hungry a$$ has been alive!

      I cant wait to see this go to court. Talk about putting a dent in your development time!

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    2. Cut the crap, we know its you Mary...

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    3. Cute answer. I just confirmed you are a member of the trash talking money hungry thief's that stole this land.

      I have no idea who Mary is, God bless her as well.

      I simply presented my feelings and some facts that you and your team are manipulating.

      On another note... I just saw this as the opening story on the 6 o'clock news.

      Seriously GO JEANE SIMMONS at 96! Freaking awesome! As you sit there behind your computer and bash this child of God because of your pride,your greed?!?! careful....

      those are middle school behaviors with middle school repercussions.

      Lets act like mature adults.

      keyboard gangsta...

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    4. Then learn how to spell, Mary. You are an idiot.

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    5. The old bat is going bye bye and the bulldozer will wreck your home as well as hers.....hahahahahahahahahahahaha

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  4. " 160-unit townhouse development and build 461 garden-style apartments on the 19-acre site. "

    more new housing. a net gain of 300 units. In a close in location. 2/3 of residents (as required) voted yes. was the campaign vitriolic? I bet if I had a chance to cash out at a major gain over market value, Id be pissed at folks trying to stop it. I understand this blog is a labor of love Ellie, but you MIGHT talk to one of the neighbors who wanted to sell to get another perspective.

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  5. Saving the community could come with a substantial cost.

    Hillwood remains a tidy community, with neat front yards and uniform houses painted in aqua and chocolate hues. But underground are 70-year-old steel pipes that carry the neighborhood’s water and sewer lines. After a string of water-main breaks in 2007, Hillwood’s co-op board decided to study the utility system’s life span.

    ironic that this is about water, as that is part of what motivated the sale

    "A consultant’s preliminary engineering report found that it could cost about $4 million to overhaul the pipes. The report also noted that although Hillwood’s gas lines were replaced in 1979, they would have to be dug up to install new water and sewer lines."

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  6. If the property is worth $85-106 million, why would a $4 million expense be a problem?

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    1. I think a better question at this point is how was a piece of gold worth $85-106 million sold for only $38 million? Sounds like an inside deal...

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    2. Because it was never worth $85 million. If you look at the WHOLE agreement its "85 million or whatever is AGREED upon by the membership" There was this woman named Tabitha Yothers who lived there and she not only illegally put the porperty on a historic site without a vote from the membership but she touted an alleged $80 mil offer from a developer. The offer was an alleged COMMERCIAL developer and Hillwood is NOT zoned for this. The greedy people can not get this through their heads.

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  7. I think the developer should offer to put her up in a nice hotel and store her stuff until they finish the new houses and then they should give her one of them.

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    1. I think the developer should board up the house and have the police remove her and her stuff. Stubborn old bat needs to realize she agreed to live in a co-op, the co-op overwhelmingly agreed to sell, and the court already decided on the issue and they HAD 60 days of notice.

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    2. You needed to call her an old bat to make your point. What a jerk!

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    3. To Anonymous at 11:29 AM

      She's 96-yrs-old, have a little respect! She doesn't want to move! If you are still alive at 96 I wonder if you will want to move? I say they need to put her up in comfort and make her last years pleasant rather than conflicted.

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  8. I feel sorry for Jeanne, having lived in her house for so long, and at 96 probably wanted to live there the rest of her life.

    However, most concluded that the infrastructure problems would have been too expensive to repair/replace. And even if done, the houses were 70+ years old and many not in very good shape.

    So, it was reasonable to conclude that it was time to sell the land to a developer and more than 2/3 voted to do so.

    The vote to sell was about a year and a half ago. The sale was final on June 24th, and according to the contact, everyone had 60 days to move. I have sympathy for Jeanne, but she and her family had plenty of time for her to find another place to live.

    As of June 24th, she no longer owns the townhouse. She has been renting from Avalon Bay since then. She has no right to stay there.

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  9. The least you could have done was honor this woman with a decent photo.

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  10. 85 million divided by 160 units. thats over half a million a unit.

    Are you seriously telling me those units are worth half a million each in the market? for 500k you could find units like that (low rise, old building) in Rosslyn, I suspect. Walking distance to Georgetown. RE prices may be crazy, but they arent THAT crazy. the property, selling the units individually is worth LESS than the 38 million. thats why 2/3 of the folks went for it. at that valuation, 4 million is a big deal.

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    1. Very true, those run down shacks are no way worth 500k. They were literally falling apart, major plumbing issues were occurring almost monthly. No one would have voted yes, if it was undervalued. In fact, this sale helped many come out from under their mortgage.

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    2. They are not even close to being worth that much, believe me. And these people lived in one they would know. And if someone was to try and sell it on their own they would not even make half of what they got for AvalonBay.

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  11. Go to redfin, search on sold properties,townhomes, at least 2BR and under 250k.

    a whole bunch of sales come up.

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  12. She is a squatter. She was a member of a co-op, the co-op overwhelmingly agreed to sell to Avalon. There was no force, coercion, or deception in anyway by Avalon Bay. The infrastructure of hillwood is falling apart, and the co-op would have faced millions in repairs had they not sold. Let's think about this article, its not logical, the vote to sell was 117 to 20. Yes 117 to fucking 20. This was a overwhelming. Also, yes, you can find comparable housing in fairfax, annandale, alexandria, and many other locations for that price. Hell, I just left Fairfax early this year and sold a 3 br condo for just under 300, and they were in FAR better shape than hillwood. I know people who spent under 200k for 2 BR condos in Alexandria. This article is all hype, and trying to stir up emotion for a stubborn 96-year old lady who just needs to move.

    In addition, the tiny minority already took this action to court and lost. There is absolutely no grounds to overturn the sale, the sale has already been ruled on in court. Just get over it and move.

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  13. People, people. Let's use our brains here. 1-2-3 br townhouses, with rundown infrastructure, built in the 50s. Does anyone here REALLY think they could be valued at 500k per unit. I mean, please, do just a LITTLE bit of research before buying into this propaganda and emotional hype.

    Those people got one hell of a deal for their properties, just go to ANY real estate site and do a comparison. I can't believe how gullible you idiots are.

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    1. Instead of calling people gullible idiots why don't you tell them the truth. A 5 acre vacant lot was also part of this parcel, that was to be divided equally among the homeowners. All owners should have been paid the same amount reguardlesss if they had a 1, 2, or 3 bedroom unit. It was a co-op!

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    2. Not true. If you were a resident of the co-op you would know that all memberships were not equal. HSMA attorneys reseached this issue in depth.

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  14. What kind of man would EVER allow his own mother to live in a house with no water where she has to carry gallons of water up stairs? If this was my mother I would get her out of there IMMEDIETELY! This is your mother you fool. Hoe DARE you allow your mother to live like that. Get your butt on a plane to VA and take care of this. Shame on you.

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  15. The coop owned more than just the modest houses. There is also a huge open space of several acres-- almost as much land as that taken up by the dwellings themselves, no?

    It sounds to me like the developer did a good job of hoodwinking the owners into selling. They may not have offered a fair market price for all that land so close to DC, but the co op leaders accepted it.

    We all need to be careful in choosing who will speak on our behalf-- Hillwood is just a microcosm of what is happening throughout our country. A lesson learned too late for Hillwood, but maybe the rest of us can take something away from it.

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  16. The land alone is worth at least $85 million. That's what the real estate agent put in the contract. There's no other parcel that quality and that size inside the beltway.

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  17. How sad to make a 96 year old live this way. She worked hard,paid taxes,was a part of her community and now because a developer wants to make millions she is expected to uproot her whole life.She deserves to be able to live out her remaining years in her home as she planned.Shame on these people for putting her though this at her age.I hope she stays put.Not many care about people anymore ,it's all about profit.

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  18. Emotional situation, some people simply don't understand that this is NOT about money for this 96 year old lady. Avalon offered a hotel room ? What a bunch of classless losers. Avalon owns a bunch of units. Avalon needs to forget the hotel BS, offer her a free unit in similar size for 1 year rent free OR pick up the tab on a place nearby for 1 year. They should not care about the publicity and just Do the Right Thing out of respect. Pathetic

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  19. Too much rhetoric is being thrown around about the supposed high value of the HSMA property. The was a well run bidding process by the realtors, a very experienced team of land brokers called Fraser Forbes. There were many bidders and Archstone/Avalon Bay's offer was deemed to be the best.

    The property went to the highest bidder, especially since they were willing to structure the "sale" as a reverse merger, and in doing so, they acquired our low cost basis. Since they did this, there were no capital gains taxes at the corporate level (the HSMA co-op). Otherwise, the members of HSMA would have been on the hook to pay roughly $10 million in capital gains taxes (35% of the capital gain).

    Because there were so many players involved, it would have been next to impossible for anyone to siphon off millions of dollars from the transaction. To believe that, about 20 people (board of directors, committee members, several attorneys, several realtors, and the buyers) would have had to be in on a conspiracy). A conspiracy of more than one person would have had a huge problem keeping things secret.

    If the accepted offer was so low, why wouldn't have one of the other bidders have beaten it by a substantial amount????

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  20. It is horrible how this man is allowing his mother to live her and in these conditions. He needs to get his butt here and take care of her.

    Avalon Bay and some of her former neighbors have brought her water and food for a week.

    Adult protective services need to help her find another place to live.

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  21. For what it's worth, NBC reported the water was shut off for a water main break that needed to be repaired. This post suggests the developer shut off the water because she refused to leave, which doesn't appear to be true.

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    1. I noticed that also. It wasn't shut off to be vindictive. There was no way to shut off just the affected portion of the water supply system. Only two options--shut off the entire system, or leave it all on with thousands of gallons flowing out of the broken main 24 hours a day.

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  22. Oh they say that on some nights, when the moon is full, you might see Steve runing backwards through the alleys of Hillwood in his ill fitting, break-away jogging shorts. Scary! And if you glance towards the community center just as the sun sets, you might catch a silhouette of Mary dumpster diving. Others say that around midnight, if you are very still and quiet, you can hear Tabitha, in ghosts of conversations past, repeatedly inserting herself where she is not wanted.

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    1. That...was...Hilarious.

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  23. Anyone know if Jeanne Simmons was relocated? I was by the HSMA property on Saturday and the main entrances are now fenced and locked (a few days ago they were open). I'd guess this means that she is now out of there, but I don't know that for sure.

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    1. What if there was a fire on the property, or God forbid Mrs. Simmons has a medical emergency and needs an ambulance? I hope the local Fire department knows to come with a pumper truck and bolt cutters to cut the chain on the fence. Avalon, increase your security and open those locked gates!!!

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    2. Thank God! Hopefully we will get our hold back money soon now.

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    3. Hold back money?

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    4. I read somewhere that she plans to spend the entire value of her home to fight to stay. I bet a lot of lawyers would love to take advantage of that. The funny thing is, her own money and ours in the holdback will be used to pay the court fees to have her removed that was part of the agreement we were all required to agree to after the majority vote. To live in Hillwood all must read and understand any new rule or agreement that the majority has voted for and now this fool is causing harm to the hold back money that most of us need to ease our survival as we all take on new habitats that come at a higher price or greater distance from Hillwood, the small but cheap community inside the DC beltway.

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    5. Jaunt up all snug in your bed with no one around, the others watch and listen then respond with frightful sound

      On when will it be, the final removal of she as the Hillwood mob re-forms agan, she receives too much attention

      Now please remove yourself from our foundation for it is no longer ours. For,

      At the time your house was our house and our house was yours.

      Then we sold it, we sold it, can’t you see that we sold it?

      Hat nearly 2 million per acre, the price that we sold it

      At too much? Too little? Too late to discuss for we sold it, we sold it, it was fair and unjust

      Now look and see what you can buy, perhaps be with your own kind

      --Not alone, not alone, but with others your age to laugh and play games, to live out your days

      --Look and see a new, old lady, old lady, please come to, and be free

      --release yourself from your stubborn way, join us, join others to start a grand new way

      --no one should feel sorry for you, nor be entertained

      --but that is the way we are, our nature will not change

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  24. The sale contract included a provision that the buyer would "hold back" $500,000 to cover unforeseen legal expenses (I think). After one year, they will be required to pay back the unused portion to the former owners of the co-op. Hopefully, any expenses incurred because of the Jeanne Simmons situation doesn't enable the buyer to tap into this fund.

    I wouldn't count on it being refunded before the one year is up, in any event.

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  25. Remember Jeanne while you are sitting out vacation for the next few years. She is spending YOUR money too. Old or not - get out of my pocket and move on!

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  26. I wonder how much the new AvalonBay homes will cost? Anybody know?

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