Neighborhoods Clean Up

Neighborhoods Clean Up

Inspections done to improve quality of life.

As building inspector for the town's neighborhood inspection program, Angelia Alford has a lot of work to complete in the next two months before the weather changes.

"Chandon and Chandon Woods are the next neighborhoods," said Alford of the 235 homes she will be surveying in an attempt to improve the quality of life in the community. "That is almost double the number of houses I surveyed last time, and those took four to five months to complete."

Prompted by the former Mayor's Neighborhood Leadership Team and the Herndon Neighborhood Action Group, the neighborhood inspection program was created to address residential improvement and increase the quality of life in town.

"A lot of people didn't know the [building] codes," said Alford of her first round of inspections. "They understand the laws are out there, but they don't understand the full realm of the codes."

With the program, Alford surveys property for building and town code violations then goes door to door to notify residents and help them create a plan of improvement in a reasonable time frame.

"We started a pilot program several years ago," said John Orrison, building official for the town of Herndon, and visionary behind the program. "We wanted to take a pro-active approach to code enforcement."

ALFORD COMPLETED her first round of inspections in the Park Avenue Square and Dumbarton Square neighborhoods.

"With the first two neighborhoods the response was just great," said Alford. "I met with the home owners association leaders in both communities and they had gone ahead and said this was a great thing to the neighbors before I got there."

Charlie Waddell, president of the Herndon Community Association Coalition, said he and another association leader volunteered their neighborhoods to be the first for Alford to inspect.

"I jumped on the program when Angelia mentioned it," said Waddell. "This is not an investigation, they're there to look for violations in relation to safety, it's for our benefit."

In her inspections, Alford explained she looks at more than just house violations.

"When I survey, I look at code violations and other neighborhood issues like broken street signs, drainage problems, broken glass — issues that affect the quality of life," said Alford.

As a part of the Uniform Statewide Building Code, or USBC, regulations, Alford is required to send letters out to the residents in the neighborhood 10 days before her inspections, as well as give a presentation to the residents to help answer questions.

"My approach to the assessment is to be one-on-one with people, to educate them with enforcement," said Alford. "I'm not just sending them a letter, I am explaining the program and the things I find, I am steering them in the direction of assistance if they need it."

ALFORD'S FIRST inspections included 60 houses in the Dumbarton Square neighborhood and 70 houses in the Park Avenue Square area.

In Dumbarton, Alford said of the 60 houses, 15 houses had maintenance issues that needed to be fixed.

Alford said the most common violations were trash, the preservation of decks and fences, sheds that had deteriorated and missing handrails.

"A lot of people had said they were planning on doing it," said Alford of resident's responses to violations. "They understood now that they needed to do it."

Waddell said he was one of the people who was not in compliance.

"My fence needed to be sealed and my handrails needed to be secured where they connected to the steps," said Waddell. "It was something I had been procrastinating on for a while — I was a good example of a bad example."

Orrison said the hope for the program is to address the violations before they become formal complaints.

"Sometimes you get used to looking at something and you don't realize it's deteriorating until someone points it out," said Mayor Michael O'Reilly. "If it's not in code violation they can't force residents to improve it, but if they gently remind them hopefully they'll take pride in their community and want it to look good."

Alford and Orrison said if residents cannot afford to immediately fix violations, they can complete an application with Fairfax County for home repairs at the Neighborhood Resource Center to gain financial assistance.

Alford said her next inspection in the Chandon, Chandon Woods neighborhoods will present a few more challenges because of the single-family detached homes, potential language barriers and a smaller window of good weather to complete repairs.

Alford said she is unsure how long this clean-up will take, but depending on the violation, she hopes residents will be able to complete repairs within six months.

Her next step is to meet with residents this Saturday at the Neighborhood Resource Center to educate them and address any questions they may have.

"We look at her as an ambassador of the town," said Orrison of Alford's work with residents. "We hope the community will feel free to talk to her about issues and then she can bring the concerns back to the appropriate agencies so we can better serve town residents."