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Thursday, August 29, 2013

VDOT orders Buddhist temple to address right of way violations

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.”


  1. Well THANK YOU ANNANDALE BLOG for this update. It is nice to see that before they were afraid to do anything because it was religious..... but sorry laws are laws. I hope they do not get "retro-actively approved"

  2. Not sure why anyone complained. I am assuming that the top picture is the "after" and the bottom picture is the "before?" If so, it looks a hundred times better and I applaud their good intentions, though I personally don't care for the flags. The rest is quite attractive, though.

  3. Both pictures were within the past week. The top one shows the driveway, while the bottom photo shows the partially denuded hill between the house and Columbia Pike.

  4. This is a PROPERTY OWNER ISSUE - period. I wish the Annandale blog would stop trying to make it into something else.
    It is against the law to encroach/accrete upon the VDOT right of way and to build upon land that does not belong to you, but belongs to the State and ultimately the taxpayers.
    Add that to the myriad other zoning and ordinance violations on the property and you have a lawbreaker as an owner. Kim Dao T Nguyen is the owner.
    When people break the law they are commonly know as criminals, and make for disrespectful residents - as has been shown.
    What would happen if the immediate neighbors put up a Staue of Liberty and a 10 foot wall on that access road/right of way? Could that be "retro-actively approved", too?

  5. I dont think a Buddhist Temple is in the same category as a private home. It just looks so out-of-place on that hill. They need to abide by the laws in place like any other taxpayer.

  6. It looks better than it did before they improved the area. They should move the flags. The rest looks great. Maybe the neighbors are mad because it looks nicer than their yards? I hope most of it is retro-actively approved.

    I don't think monks with good intentions are should be referred to as criminals. That's a bit overboard.

  7. People here who fuss about code compliance, must have been happier with an abandoned, dilapidated piece if property. Personally, I prefer a Buddhist Temple, to some nasty, weed-ridden house.

  8. We have another Buddist Temple on Backlick Road that was never approved to be a business but they are running it as such. The County will not touch it because of the religious issue. On Sundays and sometimes through out the week there are around 40 to 50 cars parked around the house. The home put gravel throughout the majority of the yard so the cars can park there. Once again the law is ignored for some but enforced for others.

  9. "When people break the law they are commonly know as criminals, "

    The speed limit on Col Pike is 45MPH. So are all the folks doing 50 and above there criminals?

    1. A speeder is a misdemeanant and of course subject to being stopped and ticketed by the police.

    2. Actually, the top speed limit on Columbia Pike is 40 MPH, and was reduced from 45 MPH a few years ago.

      However, I agree with your point. Being in violation of county building codes is not a criminal offense. Speeding is actually is a criminal offense and egregious violation could send the speeder to jail. Penalties for violating zoning ordinances can be painful, but won't put you in jail.

  10. Why should we even zone by use? If a house has the physical shape of a house, why not let people use it as they wish (IE form based zoning) If they make a nuisance, that should be stopped - but the same would apply to a private house hosting private gatherings of any type.