|Homeless men exiting the vacant house at 3408 Washington Drive.|
Bailey’s Crossroads residents concerned about squatters in two vacant houses that will be torn down to make way for a new retail center on Leesburg Pike are hopeful that some action will be taken to secure the properties.
The police have been called to the area numerous times, as at least half a dozen homeless men have been seen coming in and of the homes, at 3408 Washington Drive, 3402 Charles Street, and a couple of outbuildings, in recent weeks. The homes have broken windows, unlocked doors, and trash strewn around the yards.
|3402 Charles St.|
Several nearby residents have written to Spectrum Development and Mason Supervisor Penny Gross to urge that the houses be boarded up and secured until they can be demolished.
Gross said she passed along the complaints to Spectrum and the police. The police “have been checking it out. It’s on their list for patrol,” she said.
It’s only been a few weeks since Spectrum acquired the properties, and the last family moved out Feb. 9, Gross said. She expects the company to begin demolition as soon as the gas company disconnects the gas lines.
|A garage on the Charles Street property shows evidence of squatters.|
Four of the six tenants planned for the shopping center have already signed leases, Gross said. They are CVS; T-Mobile; Burger 7, a restaurant with locations in Alexandria, Tysons, and Arlington; and Pita Pouch, a fast casual Middle Eastern restaurant with locations in Falls Church and Tysons. The center should be fully leased this summer, she said. The Board of Supervisors approved the project in January 2017.
Washington Drive resident Irene Xenos, who lives across the street from one of the vacant houses, said the police were on the site most recently on the evening of March 29 for a report of five homeless men at the old Geico building and another five at the bus stop on Leesburg Pike. Officers spoke with the men but didn’t arrest anyone because Spectrum hadn’t authorized the police to enforce trespassing on that property.
|Broken windows on the Washington Street house.|
On a previous police visit, an officer confirmed what Xenos had heard that the squatters had been kicked out of the Bailey’s Crossroads Community Shelter for drug use. “It’s gotten way out of hand, and these meandering drug addicts seem to be very comfortable just walking up and down the driveway in the light of day as if they belong there,” she said.
Spectrum President Dick Buskell wrote to the community March 19 that the houses will be torn down as soon as the county issues a demolition permit, and that can’t be done until all the utilities are disconnected and capped.
On March 29, Buskell reported: “We have all the disconnect letters with the exception of the Charles Street residence” and that the “Potomac Abatement and Demolition Company is standing by to commence demo work immediately after receiving the permit. We will expedite the permit issuance and hope the contractor will be able to commence work next week.”
According to Buskell, one of the former homeowners who sold their property to Spectrum “took as much of his house as possible with him to his new house on Charles Street without the developer’s permission or knowledge. This included doors and windows.” The other seller left their home secure but, “in reality, a vacant home is never secure.”
|The old Geico building.|
“What a lot of the neighborhood is confused about is why these lots have not been secured in the five weeks or more that you have owned them,” another Washington Drive resident wrote in an email to Spectrum. “As you know, we asked for the Geico building to be fenced up since the beginning and that location gets worse by the day and you have been in charge of it for over a year.”
There have been mattresses, furniture, and trash dumped on the Geico parking lot and in the field behind the building.
Officer J. Lung, who was patrolling the site on March 29 said the homeless people hanging out there are a “constant problem. We scare them out of one building, then they go to another.”
There are “no trespassing signs” on the Geico building and the fence surrounding the vacant lot but not on the two vacant houses. Those signs are helpful in court, Lung says, because the prosecutor can then add trespassing to the charges.
|A no trespassing sign on the fence surrounding the site of the future shopping center.|
The resident expressed concerns about neighborhood kids in the vacant houses, possibly using them for gang activities, as well as homeless people. “Who is going to be responsible if a child goes into one of those houses to explore and is attacked by someone using the house for who knows what?”
“I am scared about what the future holds for me and my home value if this is how things are going,” he wrote to Gross. “How can I trust that these developers will have things enforced if nothing is enforced now? Please help enforce and clean up these lots which are an eyesore and a hotbed for illegal activities.”
In the past, Gross had talked about “how horrible it was for some homeless people to die in a fire at the old abandoned home on Charles,” Xenos reminded the supervisor. “It seems we may be heading that way if something does not happen soon.”