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Monday, June 11, 2012

Property maintenance issues plague Mason District

4026 Arcadia Road
Neighborhood activists concerned about declining property maintenance are increasingly frustrated about the lack of action by government officials, although the county’s ability to act is limited.

“If there is not a law that keeps rogue homeowners from creating dangerous and unsafe habitable conditions in Fairfax County, then there should be one,” says Zamibo, an architect who lives in Parklawn and has been waging a battle against illegal “extreme” yards sales, multiple occupancy, and poorly maintained homes. “This should be the number-one priority of the building department/permit division and our government officials.”

Allowing an unfinished construction project to languish for five years is ludicrous, he said. “It’s more than an eyesore. It devalues the value of all the properties around it.”

One example cited by Zambito is a house at 4026 Arcadia Road, which he says “has been clad in torn and flying Tyvek for the past five years with a blue tarp as a roof.”

An email from Susan Epstein, a code compliance supervisor in Fairfax County’s Department of Code Compliance, in response to a complaint from Zambito, says there is an active building permit for 4026 Arcadia—so the county can’t do much about it.

Zambito has also complained about 4002 Arcadia, a teardown that has been under construction since 2007, with outside storage, a huge satellite dish in the front yard, and possible multiple occupancy.

In addition, he notes that the houses on Braddock Road that had been cited for having frequent yard sales with used cars and large appliance seem to be still at it.

According to Epstein, the yard sales at 4058 Braddock Road were found to be in violation of county laws, and the issue was referred to the county attorney’s office in April.

4002 Arcadia Road
Regarding 4220 Braddock Road, Epstein says, a court order was entered in 2010 for junk and outdoor storage, and fines were assessed. The owner was later found to be compliance, and the case was closed. After another inspection, a new complaint was filed, and the matter is expected to be referred to the county attorney’s office.

A notice of violation was sent to the owner of 3908 Braddock Road for operating a retail sales establishment in a residence and cars parked on the grass. The owner refused to let code inspectors inside the house on May 29, so the case is being referred to the county attorney, Epstein says.

Zambito had seen a large Budget rental truck loading and unloading merchandise at the house the week before, and there had been biweekly deliveries at the property for several years.

In another house on that street, 4125 Braddock, the county has requested that a case be opened for illegal vehicle sales.

Zambito notes that some of these property owners are continuing to have sales, but have switched to weekends and weekday evenings, when county inspectors are not working.

According to Epstein, “there is a good chance the owners will continue to violate the zoning ordinance until they are ordered to stop by a judge.”

“Those of us who work hard and pay taxes are frustrated by the lack of initiative by those in power,” Zambito says, although he concedes that the Fairfax County supervisors have limited power in dealing with these situations.

The economic downturn is also partly to blame. Homeowners who lost jobs or who got loans they shouldn’t have qualified for may have trouble completing a remodeling project. In other cases, contractors may have abandoned a project or homeowners have gotten contractor licenses they shouldn’t have qualified for, he says. He also blames lax regulations and a “squatter mentality.”

The county can only do so much, in terms of inspecting properties and citing violators, as the uniform building code is the responsibility of the state. Taking away a permit for an unfinished home remodeling project twouldn’t be that helpful either, as the project might never be completed.

Del. Mark Keam (35th District) introduced legislation during the recently concluded session to require a two-year time limit—the current limit is three years—on the duration of building permits for new or single-family houses. That measure didn’t get anywhere, but Keam says he plans to bring it up again next year.


  1. This is a legit source of income that could really help the county. If you're caught speeding, you get a ticket and if you don't pay it, there are some serious consequences for such an action. Same should be true here, go after these people and ticket them the same way you would somebody who is speeding, expired registration sticker, busted taillight etc. It will be such a source of revenue you can hire people just to inspect and go after those people who either run illegal yard sales or let their home turn into a run down mess.

  2. Good idea. I am sick and tired of these homes ruining our neighborhoods. It looks like a dump site around here and to complain to the county does NOTHING. Some moron in the county approved all these ugly mcmansion homes and they should be hung - or wait - they are retired and moved away - why should they care. Our property values are really being eroded by these irresponsible people. I think over five years you can scrape money up for some siding.

  3. Personally I think this post walks an interesting fine line. If I wanted to live in a neighborhood where some busy body with nothing better to do than post pictures of people's home online listing and listing their offenses I would have moved to a neighborhood with an HOA.

    Several of the issues listed above seem like minor aggravations. Then again I don't live next door to them and am lucky enough to have considerate neighbors.

    I have a much larger problem with the multi-family homes that clutter the streets with cars, the people who don't care to pick up weeks worth of free papers from the driveway, and folks that park their cars across the sidewalk (which is illegal).

    For the situations where there are genuine legal concerns, have at it. Go get em! For everyone else, maybe there needs to be a "Take pride in your neighborhood" campaign effort.

    I faithfully spend my Saturday's plucking weeds from the front yard in fear my house will be the next target of a blog like this. Yikes!

  4. The county needs to get ahold of the these issues, mostly brought on by the influx of illegal aliens, which the county welcomes with open arms apparently. This embracing is obvious in every facet of life in FX County these days. Take for instance the fact that today when I went to vote today, I had an option to do so in SPANISH!!!

  5. I do not think that it is walking a fine line to ask people to finish remodeling projects within a certain number of years. The unsightliness causes neighborhoods to go downhill and causes property values to plummet. While it may seem that Mr. Zambito has a gestapo mentality, I interpret it to be someone who has reached a breaking point in trying to deal with issues that impact him, his neighborhood and his largest investment - his home. We face similar issues in our community, and are also frustrated by what seems to be a county afraid of being accused of racial profiling if they take action against certain groups of people when they are in violation of county codes. Older communities should not have to pay the price because our communities existed before the creation of HOAs, nor should we have to move to have the same quality of life as someone who has an HOA.

  6. I think this is well stated above. As for the other comment. Who are you? Obviously someone who doesnt know the isues. I am offended that you actually think we "busy-bodies" - count me as one of them - have nothing better to do than try to get help for our neighborhood. I HOPE you arent in MY neighborhood. We moved here with the expectation that people would ACTUALLY upkeep their property. Now we (folks in civic associations) are dealing with MAJOR ISSUES like these unfinished homes, multi-occupant homes-etc. ruining our property values and the physical appearance of the entire district. Hope you enjoy picking up old newspapers - if that was all I had to worry about I'd throw a feakin' party.