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Saturday, December 28, 2013

Here's what happened with some of our major stories of 2013

Ever wonder what happened to the people and places we wrote about in 2013? Here are some follow-up reports on how those stories turned out.

Box Hill Farm
In January we reported on Box Hill Farm, an old restored farmhouse on a seven-acre property bordering Wakefield Park in Annandale. It was on the market for $1.9 million, and the owners, Ron and Nell Miller, were having trouble selling it and didn’t want to sell to a developer.

The property was sold in June to “a couple who had been living in the area but was looking for a unique place to raise their children,” Nell Miller says. They are doing some renovations to make the house better suited for a growing family but “they are keeping with the history and character of the original,” she says. “We’re glad that children will grow up there and that a piece of Annandale’s history is being lovingly preserved.”

According to Fairfax County property records, the sales price was $1.075 million. The Millers purchased Box Hill Farm in 1999 for $874,900.

Police officer Long “Junior” Dinh, who had been working in the Mason Police District when he sustained severe injuries in a high-speed head-on car crash in Annandale in March while pursuing a suspect, is still “undergoing treatment and is doing well,”  says a spokesperson for the Fairfax County Police Department. It isn’t known whether Dinh will return to work.
Jeanne Simmons, the 96-year-old resident who had refused to vacate her home in Hillwood Square in Falls Church after the property was sold to a developer, has moved to her son’s place in Denver, NBC News Channel 4 reported. 

A resident since 1957, Simmons had vowed to fight what she called an illegal eviction in court, but it became too difficult after the water was cut off and she was the only one left in the community. The other  homeowners had accepted buyouts and moved on.

Demolition of Hillwood Square, built during World War II to house workers at the torpedo factory in Alexandria, is under way. Avalon Bay had originally planned to build 461 garden apartments. It has revised its plans and is now developing 384 units including some townhouses as well as apartments. 

In July, we reported on Linda Pelligrino, the tenant stuck in an apartment at Rosedale Manor in Bailey’s Crossroads contaminated with toxic black mold. She was trying to get the apartment management and the Fairfax County Housing Department to get rid of the mold, which has made her so sick, she had to be hospitalized, or transfer her to her another unit in the subsidized apartment complex.

As of Dec. 13, Pelligrino is still in the same apartment and still battling the authorities. An air quality test showed the air in her apartment is currently okay, but she wants a tree limb over the roof removed, because its leaves are clogging the gutter and causes flooding when it rains, and the water gets inside the wall. “The mold will reoccur again unless they correct the problem,” she says.

The dispute between the Glen Forest Community in Bailey’s Crossroads and Fairfax County over residents’ removal of trees has been resolved.

After residents had cleared out an overgrown area next to the community pool, the community association was informed that the land was a Resource Protection Area and was ordered to replant the area, we reported in August. The association was facing the prospect of having to pay thousands of dollars for 400 replacement trees and shrubs or face a $2,500 fine and a year in jail for failure to comply.

The Glen Forest Community Association received a letter of compliance in early December, says Board President Karen Haworth. Fairfax County agreed with the association’s contention that the stormwater division was at least partially responsible for failing to replace plants it tore out during a creek restoration project in 2003-04. So the county replanted 30 percent of the required 400 plantings.

The community association carried out the rest of the replanting this month. Most of the plants were donated by Fairfax ReLeaf, the Virginia Native Plant Society, and Earth Sangha.
The Fairfax County Police Department announced Nov. 11 that Poe Middle School Principal Sonya Swansbrough and Bethany Speed, an administrative employee at JEB Stuart High School who used to work with Swansbrough, had been charged with embezzlement and money laundering.

The allegations involved falsifying time sheets for personal financial gain. Officials believe over $100,000 may have been embezzled, beginning in May 2010. Police also charged Swansbrough’s son, Brenton Rusnak, 20, with receiving stolen property in connection with the case.

A Dec. 13 report by NBC News Channel 4 says Speed had created a 40-hour time sheet to coincide with the time her daughter was in school.

A former employee at Poe told the Annandale Blog that Rusnak did some work at the school, including painting rooms, and speculates that he was paid for additional jobs that he didn’t do. The employee said Swansbrough had an excellent reputation at Poe and was well-liked by parents, students, and staff but was not that strong when it came to student discipline.

Fairfax County Public Schools initially appointed Poe administrator Colleen Noone as interim principal of Poe following Swansbrough’s arrest. On Dec. 21, Cluster 3 Assistant Superintendent Douglas Tyson announced that Glynn Bates would take over as interim principal on Jan. 6. Bates formerly served as principal of Hayfield Secondary School for eight years.

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