Trying to Define Blight

Trying to Define Blight

Cars are on the forefront of what is right and wrong with this area. From the $650 million interchange project to the standstill at rush hour or the freedom to cruise around in a convertible with the top down on a sunny day, everyone has a preference.

There are six cars in Springfield resident Cynthia Pinto's yard and driveway, but she doesn't see it as a property-value issue. At her house in Loisdale Estates, there are three in the yard and three in the driveway. One has flat tires and a "For Sale" sign in the front windshield.

"It's not really important. This is my husband's hobby," she said.

Next door, Nan Ho has one car in the front yard and two in the enlarged driveway. The car is in the yard for a reason.

"It's easier for them to get out, my mom and dad," the son said, interpreting for his father. The father did note the neighbor’s two cars in the side yard.

"He parks it a long time ago," Ho said.

Incidents like this are targets of an effort by Supervisors Dana Kauffman (D-Lee) and Penny Gross (D-Mason) to preserve housing values and curb overcrowding by introducing a plan to limit the amount of asphalt in expanded driveways and prohibit the front yard from being a parking lot. Similar measures are in place in the Town of Vienna, the City of Fairfax, Arlington County, the City of Alexandria, the Town of Herndon and the City of Falls Church.

Kauffman looks at it as a property-value issue.

"This is basically to make sure our properties maintain their value. I try to put myself in the shoes of the people I represent," he said.

Most of the communities in Lee District were built from 1955-65, when cars weren't so plentiful. Part of the solution is common sense, he thinks.

"What's wrong with helping communities keep up their appearance? People shouldn't want to park in their front yard if they are concerned with their own home value," Kauffman said.

Linda Waller, Kauffman's administrative assistant, answers a lot of complaints on the issue.

"It's a hot issue, we get a lot of calls," she said.

A ONE-CAR HOUSEHOLD is practically nonexistent around the area, and a majority of the houses have two-car driveways or garages. A simple, two-car driveway is not one of the targeted issues. It's when the homeowner goes too far and paves 25 percent of the yard. The violations would have to be reported.

"The process is a complaint-driven process. If it meets the standards of being a violation, then it will be enforced," Kauffman said.

Cardinal Forest resident Marshall Jenkins has lived in his house since 1964. He added another space to his driveway years ago, but he does think there is a limit.

"I widened it. I used to have three cars. I don't think this is anywhere near 25 percent, though. It beats parking in the street. This is a speedway sometimes," he said, talking about Carrleigh Parkway out in front of his house.

Springfield resident Todd Kolbert has a homeowners association that takes care of it.

"It's not a bad idea," he said of the motion.

Kings Park resident Jennifer Morris sees a few houses around her neighborhood with expanded driveways but isn't aware of problems associated with it.

"For the houses that have expanded driveways, I haven't seen any negative impact," she said.

One Kings Park resident who chose not to give his name, said it was commonplace where he came from.

"We lived in the Southwest, and that's what they do. Everyone in Oklahoma and Texas parks their car in the yard," he said, but he sees other front-yard sights he's not too happy about.

"The current trend is to put your trash can in the front of your yard," he said.

One six-year resident of Yates Village in Springfield looks out her second-floor window at a neighbor’s yard, which is full of broken-down cars. She chose not to give her name but does see it as a quality-of-life issue.

"This gentleman cut down two trees to get the cars in. This is my neighborhood, and I want it to stay nice," she said. She's seen rats crawling in and out of the cars as well.

"Who would want to buy a house next to broken-down cars with rats in them," she asked.

JEFF WYATT, boat owner in Springfield, sees extra cars around the neighborhood but noted the homeowners association’s role.

"There's some people that have more vehicles than is proper, but that's not really a county issue. I'd be totally against it [the bill]. That's basically the job of homeowners associations," he said.

Wyatt looked on it as a individual’s rights issue.

"It's nobody's business how big driveways are," he said.

A Keene Mill Station resident who chose not to use her name has lived in the neighborhood for 34 years. She sees it as a growing problem of exclusivity that has developed among her neighbors. She was a second-generation immigrant who originally settled outside Philadelphia.

"I've seen people cement their whole front yards, and it's never been an issue. After the second World War, three generations lived in one house. Once you get teen-agers, there's more cars than there are drivers," she said.

She also put on an addition to her driveway years ago.

"Just enough to put a car in there. Parking is very limited," she said.

ROSEMARY MENESES lives right on busy Burke Lake Road, where pulling out is a problem. She's considering enlarging her driveway so she can turn around before pulling out into the traffic.

"Getting out is really difficult," she said.

Next door to her house is a corner lot that has a multiple-spot parking lot in addition to an expanded driveway.

"I think they have a business over there. It makes no difference to me how big their driveway is," she said.

Cardinal Forest resident Soren Hartkorn called it a property-owner issue but drew the line on junked cars in the yard.

"It's their own house, they can do whatever they want," he said.

If cars aren't allowed in the yard or in an expanded driveway, owners have to resort to parking them on the street. Then it presents a whole different series of concerns.

"It's a no-win situation," Kauffman said, noting that the proposal is in its early stage.

THERE ARE SAFETY ISSUES for houses on busy streets as well.

"I think we'll have some provision in there," Kauffman said.

Kings Park is near Supervisor Sharon Bulova's office, and she's aware of the busy road. She's behind the bill but noted the need for flexibility.

"I think I will support that bill but will make sure we're making allowances for very small front yards and houses on busy streets. I want to make sure there's flexibility in the law," she said.

Bulova started a "Community Challenges Task Force" that deals with situations such as cars in the yard and large driveways.

"Our Community Challenges Task Force is very interested. People are concerned about property values. Their concern is overcrowding of households and the number of cars," Bulova said.

A public hearing will take place with the Fairfax planning commissioners on April 25 at 8:15 p.m. and the Board of Supervisors, June 3, 3:30 p.m.