|Vehicles and debris in a yard in Mason District.|
More results from the survey will be released at a public meeting hosted by MDC Feb. 6, 7:30 p.m., at Sleepy Hollow Elementary School. Several Fairfax County officials are scheduled to speak, including Code Compliance Director Jeff Blackford, code compliance supervisors Susan Epstein and Rachael Perrott, Deputy County Executive Robert Stalzer, and JoAnne Fiebe, a program manager with the Office of Community Revitalization.
|This house on Kimberly Drive, off Annandale Road, has been under construction since 2007.|
“Mason District residents’ frustration with code enforcement is palpable,” says MDC Chair Mollie Loeffler. “There are solutions. Other regional municipalities have program components that support community participation and provide multi-language materials and flex time so inspectors can work on weekends.”
“We believe these programs and other creative approaches can bring citizens and the county together to tackle important quality-of-life issues here in Mason District and the rest of Fairfax County,” Loeffler says. “The council is actively urging the Department of Code Compliance (DCC) and elected officials to respond to citizen concerns and revise code enforcement procedures to dramatically improve outcomes.”
The survey asked respondents to describe their experiences trying to get the country to respond to complaints about code violations in their neighborhoods. Here’s a sample of their comments (with minimal grammatical corrections):
- Zoning violations create a blight in our area which discourages positive development. Egregious overcrowding violations are rampant in our area and have caused serious problems—overcrowding of schools, increased traffic congestion, and overflow parking caused by too many vehicles, overflowing trash dumpsters, and probably more crime and gang activity. Unless the DCC vigorously enforces zoning codes, especially occupancy codes, our area will continue to decline.
- Who is going to want to invest in neglected neighborhoods? Who is going to invest in a county that can’t enforce basic code provisions?
- Many homes on Annandale Road have three unrelated families. I know this for a fact because I am a homebound teacher and I go into these homes. In Culmore, the one person who has the apartment takes advantage of new immigrants by charging large fees for half of a living room. The children sleep in the closets. The young girls are subjected to older men who come and go without any supervision. I had an eighth-grader who got pregnant from one of the transient renters.
- I would have filed complaints for overcrowding/multi-occupancy, but after listening to a member of the DCC on how the process works, where there is no authority for a DCC member to enter a dwelling to determine how many people live there and that there were no resources available and/or requested from police who do have the authority to enter, I determined that it would be a complete waste of time to file a report.
- I think the overcrowding at Bailey’s Elementary School is due in large part to overcrowding in the Culmore area. We have not had any significant new housing developments, yet we continue to experience growth in the schools that overwhelms the ability to provide adequate services. If the capacity limits were better enforced in the apartment complexes, perhaps we would not have the urgent need for another school to offset the crowding at Bailey’s.
- I have never filed [complaints] because my neighbors have and nothing came of it. I witnessed big arguments with my neighbors and Penny Gross on opposite sides. Penny appears to allow the multiple family homes. I really think she feels responsible for the underprivileged families; however, she is just keeping them in their state of poverty by allowing more houses to fill up with low-income families around them. Then middle-class families feel the need to leave the county because the values of their homes goes down, and it spirals downward.
- I filed a complaint about low-income unit in a condo development I used to live in. Eight people were living in a two-bedroom unit with five vehicles (the condo rules only allow two). I was told that an inspection would be done by the county but only after they give two weeks notice as to when the inspection would take place. Seriously?? So I’m sure you can guess how many people and vehicles were there when the inspection took place. As I am sure you can guess how many people and vehicles were there a few days after the inspection. Totally worthless and pointless.”
- The residents of the house claimed to all be related, and therefore compliant given the ‘family’ definition. They did not let the inspectors inside the front door. However, after the lender foreclosed, a visit inside the house found individual rooms with doors and keyed locks, as if they were being rented as individual apartments. Family members do not behave this way.
- The code officer came by, barely got out of vehicle, looked around, shrugged, then left. There is a commercial business in the house along with multiple non-family tenants, five to seven dogs, sofas in the backyard, construction debris, trash, streets packed with vehicles belonging to the work crews, commercial trucks idling at early hours in the street and driveway—the list goes on and on. It’s ridiculous.
- At one property, numerous complaints were filed by at least 19 individuals over the condition of the property, rats, debris in the yard, and overgrowth of the yard. The county did nothing but tell the ones complaining there were extenuating circumstances.
- When seven or eight cars are jammed into a driveway, spill over onto the street, and on occasion parked on lawns, the neighborhood looks bad. When garages are turned into rooms without permits and when cheap lawn furniture, children’s swing sets, and kitchen chairs are parked on the lawn, the neighborhood begins to look like a low-income slum. When one house looks bad, the others follow, and next thing you know it’s a mess.
- In one instance, there has been only partial compliance with the request to tear down an illegal outbuilding and no follow up compliance check by the county. In another instance, a junkyard in the backyard of a private residence on Auburn Street has still not been cleaned up. Garbage is being disposed of inappropriately, and it is a breeding ground for rats. There are young children living next door and it is dangerous.
- Our neighbor has left his home abandoned for more than a year. There is extensive water damage to the home and serious growth of mold. The exterior yard is unkempt and overgrown and has become a breeding ground for rodents and a haven for other wildlife.
- The unwillingness of the Fairfax Board of Supervisors (BoS) to either pass or modify ordinances to more effectively address zoning issues is unfair to the DCC and residents. Code compliance begins with the BoS not the DCC. The DCC can only enforce those ordinances passed by the BoS.
The Mason District Council is a non-profit organization that serves as a support network and communication forum for civic associations, homeowner associations, and the public. Its member associations represent more than 4,000 households in Mason District.