Neighbors Upheld on Blight

Neighbors Upheld on Blight

City Council declares blight on a house that has been under construction since January 2005.

The fate of an unfinished house drew a crowd to the City Council meeting Tuesday, March 28, when the council heard public comment and considered a finding of blight on the vacant property.

Owner Allaudin Faruque, a Centreville resident and co-owner of Amar Construction, received a building permit in early January 2005 to begin adding a 1,700-square foot second story to the single-family house, located at 3507 Burrows Avenue. However, said Andrew Wilson, director of code administration, Faruque never completed work on the property.

"Progress stopped on the house over the last summer," he said. The 50-year-old original structure and a second-story frame, unfinished and weathered by the elements, had become dilapidated, moldy, and unsafe, and the house had become a point of concern for many of its neighbors, said Wilson. In December, the Office of Code Administration made a preliminary determination of blight on the property, and notified Faruque about the decision, and Faruque responded saying that work would begin in March and end five or six months later.

According to Wilson, Faruque’s response came a few weeks past the Jan. 23, 2006 deadline, and the work plan did not satisfactorily solve the problem. On March 13, the Planning Commission agreed with the blight findings, he said, and recommended that the city confirm a blight abatement plan, which includes tearing down the existing structure and placing a lien on the property to recoup the $25,000 cost of demolition work.

According to Faruque, he stopped work on the house because of financial problems from another property he recently sold in Vienna. Now, he said, he has the money to finish the construction project by June, and construction workers have been on site every day for the past two weeks.

"I could build this house, I could move in when it is finished," said Faruque.

Josephine Motter, who lives in the house directly next door to Faruque’s property, said she had fixed up her own house with the intent of putting it on the market and retiring. However, said Motter, a Realtor who came to look at her property said that because of the state of the neighboring house, Motter’s home would decrease $50,000 in value.

"My retirement plans are now awaiting resolution on this," said Motter, urging the council to make sure that whatever action they took, whether salvaging the house or demolishing it, would be quick.

THE HOUSE can be salvaged, said Wilson, but Faruque failed to come up with engineering reports outlining the work required by the time of Tuesday’s meeting. Just before the meeting, he said, Faruque gave him a mold removal estimate, but did not provide a structural assessment. Faruque said the estimate would come Wednesday, March 29, but Wednesday was too late, said Wilson.

"The issue is whether to believe the owner has the means and the motivation to proceed with that work or not," said Wilson.

City councilmembers said they were concerned about the vagueness of Faruque’s proposal.

"I’m very troubled you’ve put us in this position," said Councilmember Jeff Greenfield. "I feel like we’re playing a game of Texas Hold-‘Em and you’re bluffing." The city does support house rehabilitation, he said, but this situation had gone on for too long.

Councilmember Scott Silverthorne said he remembers when the blight ordinance was first introduced in March 1997. "This is exactly what the ordinance is here for, to protect the community from blight," he said.

Mayor Rob Lederer, who lives a few blocks away from the property in question, said he was disappointed the situation went on for as long as it did. The main problem, he said, is that the property, with an unfinished house and construction debris, is unsafe. The City Council voted unanimously to declare the house a blighted property and demolish it. Faruque, however, said he would get an attorney and fight the decision.

THE CITY COUNCIL also considered the following items:

* Unanimously approved awarding a $133,020 contract to Fort Myer Construction to replace railings on the University Drive Bridge at Kenmore Drive.

* In the work session, the council recommended the City Manager’s office to proceed with a bottled water marketing program, where the City of Fairfax would have its own bottled water from the Goose Creek Water Treatment Center for water outages and to sell at city events.

* The council also gave the go-ahead to the Department of Public Works to begin expanding the width of the road at Main Street in preparation for the two-way traffic switch later this year. According to director of public works John Veneziano, the expansion will cut 1.5 feet into the sidewalk on either side of the road from Chain Bridge Road to University Drive, except where there is a utility pole in the way. The project would move the gaslights and remove several of the trees along Main Street, he said. The council directed Veneziano to move forward with the project, using granite curbs and refurbishing the storm drains there as well.