A majority of owners of the cooperative complex in the Falls Church area of Fairfax County voted to sell the property to AvalonBay Communities Inc., which plans to develop 461 garden-style apartments. It’s a by-right project—the land is already zoned R-20—so there was no requirement for a public hearing.
Simmons, the only holdout, believes she has the right to remain in her home and is defying an order from AvalonBay to vacate her home. She’s well aware of the consequences, noting “maybe I will be incarcerated.”
|Simmons home at 2848 Franklin Walk.|
Simmons can still walk up and down the stairs in her small home but gets dizzy if she sits for a long time. She has a lively sense of humor, loves to talk, and as she noted during a conversation in her small bedroom full of books is “still slim.”
She reminisced about her many travels to Europe, her two grandsons, and her career as a teacher at St. Michael School in Annandale, where she “taught everything except religion“ and played classical music during the lunch period.
She accused AvalonBay of trying to manipulate her by telling her that her son “doesn’t like you; he is just using you.” She said, “That is so cruel.”
|Bottled water in Simmons' living room.|
There has been no regular water service in Simmon’s apartment for the past three weeks. During our visit, representatives from AvalonBay were working on repairing a broken water main in Hillwood Square. The company has been pumping non-potable water to Simmon’s home from a truck. Meanwhile, the company, as well as friends and relatives, have been bringing her bottled water for drinking and cooking.
“We are attempting to resolve this unfortunate situation safely and fairly,” says Richard Wolff, a senior advisor at Kreab Gavin Anderson, a corporate communications firm that represents AvalonBay. “Over the last several weeks, we have done our best to provide water service.”
“Although Mrs. Simmons herself has expressed concern and fear over being the only person remaining on the 19-acre property, her family remains unwilling to cooperate with us to arrange for her welfare,” Wolff says. “Nevertheless, we will continue to attempt to ensure the delivery of basic services to the residence, until the court issues its ruling in this matter.”
He son, John Simmons, who is advising his mother from his home in Denver, says water mains have broken in the past in Hillwood Square but have been fixed promptly. This time, it’s taking a lot longer.
|A water truck in Simmons' backyard.|
“They have absolutely no respect for her privacy,” he adds. “They come in any time of the day. They come up the stairs and wake her up.”
She received a letter Aug. 26 from an attorney representing the Hillwood Square Mutual Association, which approved the sale, ordering her to “vacate the unit you occupy within five days.” Having refused to comply with that order, she is now required to appear in Fairfax County court Sept. 27.
At that time, the judge will give her time to secure an attorney and will set a trial date, John says. If the trail “doesn’t go her way, she is prepared to appeal.”
|Hillwood Square is fenced in.|