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New Inspectors Closing More Overcrowding Cases

Newly-hired community inspectors augment town's excessive occupancy investigations.

The Town of Herndon saw its first returns from the addition of two new full-time employees to the town's community development team last week when it registered 67 closed cases of excessive occupancy complaints for the first quarter of 2006.

The two new employees, who bring the number from five to seven of full-time community development inspectors who handle excessive occupancy complaints, also constitute an evolution over the last six years in handling such complaints, according to Herndon zoning administrator Elizabeth Gilleran.

Of the 67 closed cases, just over half were abated, or resolved, while the remaining cases were found to have no violations, according to a press release.

The number of excessive occupancy cases closed has risen steadily with 96 in 2003, 147 in 2004 and 250 in 2005, according to Herndon public information officer Anne Curtis. Concurrently, the number of housing inspectors has increased with two inspectors employed in 2003, four in 2004 and five in 2005.

THE METHOD FOR INSPECTING complaints of overcrowding has been evolving along with the increase in size of the team, according to Gilleran.

One of the new employees is the first inspector dedicated to excessive occupancy investigations who represents both the building inspector's office in town's Department of Public Works and its Department of Community Development.

"The building inspector's office now plays an important role in excessive occupancy [complaints]," Gilleran said in a phone interview. "This not only bolsters the effort to end excessive occupancy ... but also to ensure people's safety in issues of building violations."

In many investigations of excessive occupancy complaints, community development inspectors notice instances in which building violations may have been committed, according to Gilleran. It was this reason that led the department of Community Development to suggest to the Town Council that they encourage a team effort between her department and the building inspector's office against overcrowding.

The result was the new official to check for building violations in excessive occupancy cases.

"Fairly frequently we would see in our complaint investigations buildings where modifications had been made," she said. "This was usually done without obtaining the necessary building permits ... and were often not built up to the proper rules and regulations."

"We [the Department of Community Development and the Department of Public Works] have been moving towards [unity] over the last several years," Gilleran said. "We're trying to make working together as a team as seamless as possible."

GILLERAN SAID THAT the work completed in the first quarter of this year does not yet reflect the commitment of the new employees, as they are still being trained and becoming accustomed to their positions, although she expects the complaint investigation process to improve throughout the year.

"This whole program has evolved very quickly, whereas six years ago we're talking about one person and now we have a team of inspectors with investigative experience and policy books," she said. "Our main goal is to solve as many excessive occupancy cases as we can as quickly and thoroughly as humanly possible."

As of March 31, 122 cases regarding excessive occupancy in Herndon remain open. Of those cases, 77 were opened in the first quarter of 2006.