Ramon Montehermoso bought a house in Phase I of the Lyndam Hill subdivision. He paid a little extra so that he could have a set of French doors open from his walkout basement into his backyard. “I bought a house with a walkout,” he told the Fairfax County Planning Commission on July 14. “You expect to have a backyard.”
Instead, Montehermoso got a door which opened to a precipitous drop and a very steep slope. “If I allowed my kids to walk out that door, it would have been a very unsafe situation,” he said.
Montehermoso built a deck at his own expense so that he could have some usable space and correct the safety issues. “I could not use my backyard when I moved in,” he said.
The public hearing at the Planning Commission was supposed to be about phase 2 of the Lyndam Hill development. The developer D.R. Horton, is proposing to build 43 townhouses and 36 detached houses on a little more than six acres on Telegraph Road near Richmond Highway.
Very little of the discussion dealt with Phase II, however. Instead, planning commissioners took turns tearing into Phase I of the project.
Commissioner Laurie Frost Wilson (at large) had visited the first development and spoke to some of the neighbors, who she said were very upset for many reasons.
For example, the driveways were wider than the curb cuts in front of the house, forcing at least one woman to drive over the sidewalk to get out. The concrete was already starting to crack, Wilson said.
Others shared the same concerns as Montehermoso. The backyards, which are only 12 feet deep, are very steeply sloped, rendering them virtually unusable, Frost confirmed.
Two of Montehermoso’s neighbors also came to speak, citing other maintenance problems and delays in construction. All three of the men have houses which back to the area to be developed under Phase II. In preparation for Phase II, a large mound of dirt had been left piled up, they said. “Our community looks like a dumpster,” said Yemi Gbadamosi.
Gbadamosi showed pictures of the area including the road that has yet to be finished and a “tot lot”, a small, mulched area with a large, plastic thing in it. “I’m not even sure what that is,” he said. “The general appearance of the community is despicable.”
The community has been waiting months for the improvements to be completed, said Hassan Yacoud. He feared that D.R. Horton wanted to wait until Phase II was under construction and then do everything at once. “If we keep on delaying the maintenance until Lyndam Hill II, that’s going to be too long,” he said.
The developer’s representative at the hearing said he was blindsided by the complaints.
“This is absolutely the first time I’ve heard some of these issues,” said Michael Jones, vice president of land acquisition and development for D.R. Horton.
Every time Jones spoke, commissioners rejected his arguments. “I think you have a responsibility to these people who paid a lot of money for these houses,” said Ronald Koch (Sully). The residents of Lyndam Hill paid between $500,000 and $600,000 and up for their homes.
Commissioner John Byers (Mount Vernon) said he also had been out to look at the development.
“That is not a good development,” he said. “I’m reluctant to recommend the Board [of Supervisors] approve another development.”
“We’ll correct these problems at the appropriate time,” Jones said.
“These people have been living there for a year,” said Commissioner Janet Hall (Mason).
Hall also questioned if the developer could be trusted to provide a quality product. “That’s disturbing, you walk out of your door and you fall two feet,” she said.
Jones defended his company’s actions, noting that it is not possible to do much paving or grading work during the winter months.
“I find this extremely disheartening,” Hall said, noting that the weather has long been warm enough for the work. “Now we’re in July.”
Koch questioned Jones about who at D.R. Horton is responsible for rectifying these issues. “I’d have a serious conversation with these gentlemen,” he said.
Koch was so incensed that after the hearing, he went into the lobby of the Government Center to ensure that Jones was talking with the three neighbors.
COMMISSION CHAIR Peter Murphy (Springfield) rhetorically asked Jones if he knew where the buck stopped. “Bottom line — it’s all screwed up and you’ve got to do something about it,” he said.
Jones said he had been on site in the past three to four weeks and had noticed the issues with paving and landscaping. He had begun to take action to fix the issues, he said.
Commissioner Ken Lawrence (Providence) suggested that Jones might prepare a schedule for when he expects to have completed the items in Phase I.
Jones pointed out that it is not proper to have approval for one development hinge on another.
Byers instead viewed the first phase as a demonstration of what might happen if the second is approved. “Fix the existing problems and make sure that similar problems don’t occur in this development, assuming this development gets approved,” he said.
The Planning Commission unanimously deferred their decision on Phase II until Sept. 29.