How Fairfax County is aggressively moving to ensure neighborhood stability and thwart the use of private, single family residences from becoming illegal "boarding houses" was spelled out in detail to members of the Spring Bank Community Association Monday night during their monthly meeting at Groveton Baptist Church.
"There is a tremendous amount of overcrowding countywide. This is particularly true in many of our older neighborhoods," said David M. McKernan, deputy chief, Fire Protection Division, Fairfax County Fire & Rescue Department and the new chief of the county's Code Enforcement Strike Team.
"We are finding many single family homes being transformed into boarding houses. People who can't afford individual housing are being taken advantage of by unscrupulous home owners who are making a profit off of their situation," he told association members who had assembled to learn what was being done to control overcrowding, misuse of property, and escalating crime in their area located just off Richmond Highway adjacent to the planned Kings Crossing development.
McKernan was joined in the presentation by Steven Mason, senior zoning inspector, Zoning Enforcement Branch, Zoning Administration Division; Fairfax County; Officer T. M. Forrest, Mount Vernon District Station, Fairfax County Police; and Thomas Howard, administrative aide to Mount Vernon District Supervisor Gerald Hyland.
"We are going to do things legally and ethically. We are not here to challenge people in their homes. But, we are going to clean up these boarding houses," Mason said.
"If we feel there is a life-safety issue in a particular home, where someone could be injured by the overcrowding, we will shut it down immediately. Otherwise, there is a procedure where they are given a 30-day notice to correct the situation," McKernan said.
THE NEW "STRIKE TEAM" is composed of representatives from five county agencies — Zoning, Public Works and Environmental Services, Health, Fire Marshal, and Law Enforcement — according to McKernan.
It was formed June 1 into units operating throughout Fairfax County, according to McKernan and Mason.
"This is a very, very high priority to the Board of Supervisors. We intend to enforce our mandate," McKernan said.
"But, you (the residents) need to organize how you will police your area and formulate a plan on how you are going to communicate with us in an organized way to report things you feel we need to address. Community involvement is extremely important for this to be a success," he said.
"If you can not make contact or are not sure who to contact, you can always call us. We can help direct you to the right person," said Howard, encouraging calls to Hyland's office.
Forrest noted that crime in the Spring Bank area was not out of line for many neighborhoods along the Route 1 corridor. He cited car theft and domestic violence as the primary neighborhood demands on local police.
He and Mason also addressed the issue of multiple vehicles at residential properties. "Only one commercial vehicle is allowed per residential property. If we find more than that they go," Mason said.
Forrest added that a "commercial vehicle" is defined by county law as any vehicle with a weight of 12,001 pounds or more. "If they don't reach that threshold they can not be defined as a commercial vehicle," he said.
PRIOR TO THE STRIKE Team presentation, Martin Tillett, vice president, SBCA, showed the membership a slide show that depicted a variety of good and bad elements associated with the Spring Bank area. Entitled the "Light Side" and the "Dark Side" it was a series of photos he had taken showing well kept homes and properties and those that had fallen into what Tillett termed a "blighted condition."
"Ownership pride abounds in the vast majority of our homes. But there are others that are neglected, both the homes and the property. And, these create a bad impression about our neighborhood," Tillett said.
He also gave the audience a brief overview of what has been happening with the Mount Vernon Council of Civic Associations and, what he termed "the never ending story of Kings Crossing." In the latter case Tillett said, "The council (MVCCA) has passed a resolution asking Supervisor Hyland to have the county Board of Supervisors extend the tax abatement for Kings Crossing because the developers have said they can not proceed without that extension."
The tax abatement would free the developers from any property tax for a given period of time. It is designed to encourage development in areas where full revenue realization can take an extended time period.