Officials from both the Fairfax County code compliance department and the Virginia Department of Transportation are investigating complaints from neighbors about the Buddhist temple at 6822 Columbia Pike in Annandale.
Among the complaints: trees cut down in front of the property facing Columbia Pike, potentially illegal changes to the property, and the operation of a business in a building zoned for residential uses.
William Dunlap of VDOT’s NOVA Arlington-Fairfax Permits section sent a certified letter to the owner, Kim Dao Nguyen, Aug. 13 stating that “the new retaining walls and new concrete driveway entrance; the recent removal of ground cover, shrubbery, and trees; and the installation of flags and assorted other hanging decorations have all been placed within public property maintained and regulated by VDOT” and are in violation of state law.
|The slope where trees have been removed from the VDOT right of way.|
The letter directs Nguyen to “immediately remove all flags, hanging decorations, signs, fencing, etc. from the slope and plantings along Columbia Pike and cease any additional removal of trees, shrubs, or ground cover within the VDOT right of way.”
To remedy the driveway and wall construction within the VDOT right of way, Dunlop presents three options: demonstrate that the county land records are incorrect and the construction is actually on private land; apply for a land use permit requesting all work done within the right of way be retroactively approved and permitted; or apply for a land use permit requesting permission to remove all unauthorized structures.
“Should you fail to comply with this request prior to Friday, Sept. 6, 2013, VDOT will have the required corrections completed at your expense,” Dunlap states.
A Fairfax County official declined to talk about a code compliance case that is under investigation.
The house at 6822 Columbia Pike had been in a state of disrepair until members of the local Vietnamese Buddhist community bought it, renovated it, and transformed it into a temple.
Kim Dao Nguyen, listed on county tax records as the owner, is a monk who lives in the house.Phap Quang, another monk who lives there, confirmed on Aug. 27 that county and VDOT officials have inspected the property. Although Quang insisted that all the property improvements have approved, that doesn’t seem to be the case.
VDOT investigated the property after receiving complaints from several local residents, said Lauren Mollerup, transportation and land use director for Fairfax and Arlington counties in VDOT’s NOVA District. “We take things on a case by case basis,” she said. “We don’t go around looking for problems. We respond to complaints.”
“We’re concerned with what’s being done on VDOT property,” Mollerup said. “Removal of trees or any other work in the state right of way has to have a permit. We dealing with the individuals involved. We’re working through this process, and we’re trying to treat everyone consistently and fairly.”