A dividing land

A dividing land

Two neighbors torn between the rights to a strip of land.

For 13 years, Clifton residents Sri Maleknasri, 48, and Bill Frazier, 54, of Pocol Drive had been neighborly toward each other. Frazier shared meat and vegetables with Maleknasri, and the two have traded friendly chit-chat through the years. Frazier says he even helped Maleknasri build a deck.

That all changed when Maleknasri decided to sell his house.

"[Frazier] would bring us tomatoes from his garden and give us meat when he went hunting," Maleknasri said. "There was really no problem before this."

At issue is a strip of land approximately 13 feet wide which stretches along the boundary of the two properties. Maleknasri claims that he allowed Frazier to use the land temporarily, 13 years ago when he moved in, after Frazier requested permission.

FRAZIER CLAIMS that he had been using the land before Maleknasri’s house was built to drive his truck back and forth and had never asked permission.

"I have used [the land] for 22 years, and I’m going to keep on using it," Frazier said.

The land provides mobility to Frazier to move his trucks to the back of his property and access his tool shed and wood pile. A necessary element in Fraziers firewood business, since the wood is stored on the back of Fraziers land. It was not being used at the time when Maleknasri moved in.

"I let him use the land to be neighborly," said Maleknasri.

Although Maleknasri owns the deed to the land, the land may belong to Frazier, according to the doctrine of adverse possession. The doctrine explains, "To establish title to real property by adverse possession, a claimant must prove actual, hostile, exclusive, visible, and continuous possession, under a claim of right, for the statutory period of 15 years." However, according to land-use attorney Jim Hart, it is very difficult to prove a claim based on the doctrine of adverse possession, due to its many specific requirements.

"I’m the one paying taxes on this land, I paid good money for the land when I bought it," Maleknasri said. "Now [Frazier] is trying to legally steal my land, [this situation] is a joke and a nightmare."

NOW FRAZIER says he can’t understand why he has to get off the land. "I don’t know what the deal is. One lawyer will tell you one thing and one lawyer will tell you another," Frazier said. "I ain’t got much learning. I might be right or he might be right, it is up to the court [to decide whose owns the land]."

"That strip of land and those logs are the way I make my living. This is the way I sent my kids through school," Frazier said. "Here is my deal; all I want to do is use the land while I’m living on it; I don’t care who it belongs to on paper."

In an effort to settle the matter, Maleknasri, hired an attorney and in a series of letters alerted Frazier that he was claiming back the use and sole rights to his land. Frazier neglected the warning and continued to park his trucks and store wood on the land. Maleknasri then contacted the police, resulting in Frazier being charged with trespassing. Frazier will appear in the General District Court on Friday, Aug. 27.

Maleknasri has since received a citation from Fairfax County zoning enforcement regarding Frazier’s industrial vehicles which are parked on the disputed land. Maleknasri now has 30 days to fix the problem which would entail moving the trucks off what zoning sees as Maleknasri’s land. "The law is oblivious to my rights and the situation," Maleknasri said.

To prevent Frazier from further usage of the land, Maleknasri contacted contractor David Hawn to give him an estimate on the cost to erect a fence. When Hawn installed stakes to mark the end of Maleknasri's land, "[Frazier] kicked the stakes out, and said that he won’t have any of this on his land," according to Hawn.

"I SEE Mr. [Maleknasri] as a gentleman, and I see this as an injustice," Hawn said. "This gentleman has constantly been taken advantage of."

A police spokesperson stated that this is a civil issue and the police will stay out of it, their only interest is to make sure that it stays civil, and does not get violent. According to Hawn, "The county should do something more active, it is part of keeping the peace."

"I just don’t understand how the authorities can be so hands off," Maleknasri said. "This is not just a legal issue, it is an issue of honor and integrity."

To Frazier there is no question of integrity. "I’m from the mountains and back where I come from you either talk it out or fight it out. Out here all they talk about is suing people. I’m just a regular old redneck guy," he said.