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Home Car Repair Can Be a Zoning Issue

In Monticello Woods, one neighbor's idea of individual rights conflicts with another neighbor's idea of community living. For one Springfield homeowner, packing up and moving seems the only option.

Activities that neighbors object to on this property include five cars in various states of repair, materials dripping on the grass, people coming and going 24 hours a day, and no sign of solutions from county officials. It's a countywide problem, according to Mike Congleton, Fairfax County Chief of Zoning Enforcement.

"We handle complaints like that on a regular basis," Congleton said.

More than once, Monticello Woods neighbors have voiced accusations about a car-repair business being run from the home. The neighbors, who chose not to use their names for fear of retribution, have run out of options.

"He runs a generator that sprays paint. The music [from the band] comes right through the wall. That's part of the reason why we are selling," said the wife, who has also seen people paying for auto repairs right in her neighbor's front yard. "Me and the other neighbors saw her [one of the cars’ owners] writing him checks," she said.

Other neighbors nearby claimed to have seen the same thing. They too declined to have their names used for fear of retribution.

"There's always cars. The big light at night, there are people looking at it at night," she said.

The accused homeowner, Froilan Manansala, claimed that all five cars — a Mercedes Benz on the front walk, a car in the back yard, a car in the carport, a former blue taxicab, and a red Honda sports car — are all his.

"They're my own cars," Manansala said. "It's under my name and my wife's name. I just like the body repair. Is having too many cars, that's not prohibited, is it?"

Having your own car in your yard is not against zoning regulations, said Congleton.

"You're certainly entitled to work on your own vehicles," he said, but anything that involves customers coming to the site constitutes a business and isn't allowed.

Delores King of the Fairfax County Zoning Administration listed all permits required for home-based businesses, but these were office-type businesses involving paperwork and telecommunications. An actual auto-repair business was different.

"If they're actually repairing automobiles on the property, that's not allowed," she said.

If neighbors see something like that, King said, "they have a right to complain to the zoning enforcement."

The Monticello Woods issue is part of a widespread concern that is countywide. In the Braddock and Springfield Districts, it was brought to the supervisor’s office by concerned neighbors. Sometimes it starts as a hobby, according to Supervisor Sharon Bulova (D-Braddock).

"They may not be aware of the restrictions that a single-family home has," she said.

Norm Beyers, chief of staff in Supervisor Elaine McConnell's (R-Springfield) office, remembers one incident in which the homeowner had eight cars in the yard. The police were called a number of times.

"They know they can't have a business in a residential area, but they do it anyway," Beyers said. "They were actually cited by zoning."

Congleton remembers another case in which a homeowner had 20 cars in the back yard. It was part of an automobile sales business run out of the home.

"He was running an automobile business, which is not allowed," Congleton said.

Home auto-repair incidents can become an environmental concern, as well. Andrea Sisler at the Northern Virginia Soil and Water Conservation District noted the hazard of materials that seep through the soil.

"Everything they dump on the ground eventually ends up in a stream," she said.

BACK IN MONTICELLO WOODS, Christine Saia is a resident and also the real-estate agent that is listing the concerned neighbor's house. She has reported her client's concern about Manansala's property to Supervisor Dana Kauffman's (D-Lee) office on more than one occasion, she claimed. The last time was Friday, July 11.

"This is my community," Saia said. "It bothers me that's what you see when you turn in to the neighborhood."

"I know Dana Kauffman's office has been contacted," she said, noting that she also complained via the Fairfax County Internet site but got no response.

Kauffman's staff assistant Michael Aho handled the complaint, which he said is the first complaint to their office on this particular issue. Aho is a newcomer to Kauffman's staff.

"We have no record of them contacting us," Aho said, but has since sent the matter to the appropriate county office.

"I forward them to the zoning inspector," he said.

Kinney said the procedure they follow when handling a complaint like that is to send a site inspector and then recommend resolutions and possibly enforcement.