A home-improvement project in West View Hills community of Springfield has taken on the aura of a guest that's outstayed it's welcome. A simple, one-story addition has evolved into three-story project, doubling or maybe tripling the size of the original house. Construction lagged over the years, until recently when Fairfax County stepped in and said, "Enough."
The Khalid family has until March to vacate, and then the bulldozers will roll in, tear the whole thing down, and stick them with the bill. The Khalids want more time and feel their Pakistani background has something to do with the county's decision.
"They said you have to finish the house, then we give you permission. Every time you heard a new story from a different man. That's not fair, because we're Pakistani, that's why," said Rukhsana Khalid.
Her son, Waqqas, worked with his father on the project.
"They said we didn't have all the inspections right. We did all of it, me, my sister and my dad. Now they're saying you ran out of time," he said.
Although the refurbished home is larger than any other house on the street, the neighbors have been somewhat sympathetic. Dan Thompson lives next door. He's watched it since the first board went up back in the late 1990s.
"I think the neighborhood in general's been extremely patient. When they first bought the house, it was real nice. There's a lot of people that were willing to give this time. It's just an anti-garbage issue, it has nothing to do with where they're from," he said. Thompson won't let his children play in the back yard because of the addition and the building materials strewn about.
THE KHALIDS PURCHASED the house in 1998 and first got plans for a one-story addition approved by the county in November 2000. They resubmitted the plans and got their amendment approved for a two-story addition in January 2001. In July 2001, an inspector found that the homeowners exceeded the scope of the building permit and were ordered to stop the construction. Construction continued anyway, and in October 2001 the Khalids applied for another amendment, which was rejected in November 2001. That rejection was delivered by a hand-carried letter, according to the chronological account obtained from Supervisor Sharon Bulova's (D-Braddock) office.
A Notice of Unsafe Structure was issued in December 2001, followed by Khalid’s submitting revised plans the following January. Later that month, those plans were disapproved by the county, and the Khalids filed a Bill of Complaint for Declaratory Judgement and Injunctive Relief on April 17. In July, the county entered a Consent Decree and gave the Khalids a schedule for completing the work, "giving the Khalids a second and final chance to comply," according to the document.
On Oct. 26, 2002, "Failure to complete exterior work required by Consent Decree Court results in $500/day fine until all compliance but, in any event, for no more than 60 days," the document stated.
Fairfax County attorney Pat Taves could not comment on the issues because of the legalities, but county spokesperson Mernie Fitzgerald was familiar with the case. Inspections revealed it was not safe and not in compliance with building code.
"This is a situation that's gone on for several years. The Khalids had the opportunity to take action. It was quite clear to them what needed to be done. They had plenty of chances to finish it," Fitzgerald said.
LAST WEEK, Bulova hosted a meeting at her office. In June 2001, the property became part of Braddock District when the county redrew the district lines. The meeting was to "brief the neighbors on the situation. Some of the neighbors have been very impatient," Bulova said.
County actions initially attempted to resolve the situation, keeping everyone happy, according to Bulova.
"That's exactly what we tried to do," she said.
On Nov. 15, 2002, county fines reached $10,000 and another $10,500 in fines added to that by Dec. 6, 2002. Finally on Jan. 14, 2003, "Mr. Khalid received a written notice of impending demolition tentatively scheduled to begin March 3, 2003," the document stated.
A neighbor across the street was at Bulova's meeting and blames the county somewhat. She estimated 50 people at the meeting.
"Maybe they misunderstood about the permit. They [county] need to stay on top of those things when they issue a permit," she said.
For a family of four, the neighbor felt the addition was more than enough. Over the months, she saw a lot of people coming and going.
"It's going to be nothing but an apartment building," she said.
Thompson also noted the enormity.
"It's a man, his wife and two children. Why he needs a 15-room house, I don't know," he said.
Khalid justified the size.
"We never lived in a small house. We want something different. A Victorian touch, that's what we put in," she said, looking around the neighborhood at other additions. "They don't complain about other houses, just ours."
Bulova said this was not the case, and the Khalids agreed to doing the work on the addition to bring it into county standards. They even brought in an engineer that county officials were familiar with. All the requirements were mapped out as to what work was needed.
"They said they would," Bulova said. "It's not an aesthetics thing."
THERE ARE ONLY so many hours in a day, as well. The Khalids feel that restricts them unfairly.
"He [husband] is working full time, then he comes home and works on it," she said.
The son is a senior at West Springfield High School, and a daughter, who is now in college, graduated from West Springfield last year.
"If we go one minute over 9 [o’clock], the police come. They want us to complete the house, but when we work at night, they complain," he said.
Fitzgerald would not comment on any particulars but noted the procedure that is followed in a situation like this.
"All procedures were followed by the county in a systematic manner," she said.
A room was added to the top of the two-story addition but it was torn down in an attempt to comply with the county. Many neighbors say it has improved greatly in the last month, compared with what it used to look like.
"This is scaled back," Thompson said.
Julia Hawk grew up in the community. She passes the house every day.
"They had it under tarps for a long time," she said.
Now the addition must come down, according to the county; and if the Khalids don't do it themselves, the county will come in, do the work and bill the Khalids for the work.
"The taxpayers shouldn't have to pay to take something down that they illegally built. We don't relish the idea of taking down the addition," Bulova said. She noted that if the county goes as far as demolishing the structure, it will be the only case in county history that's gone to those extremes.
The county will also inspect the existing house underneath to make sure that is safe. During all this work, the Khalids will have to find somewhere to stay. Currently, they are staying in the existing house under the addition during the day and hinted that they go to a friends at night.
"If they bulldoze the house, where are we going to go?" Khalid said.
If the Khalids decide not to pay for the demolition, Bulova said the county will put a lien on the house and recoup the money when it is sold.