novatownhall blog

Where you are held accountable for your convictions and record

Keep an eye on her blog and you will see what I mean.

More to come.

In Sterling, apparently.

A story circulating in Sterling the past year is the Loudoun County government has cast a blind eye to many instances of squatting; specifically, when a house is foreclosed and everyone is evicted, little by little people show back up and occupy the residence. Sometimes it’s by entering through a rear entrance, sometimes former tenants of these boarding houses still having keys and going in through the front door, usually a strictly nocturnal phenomenon. People have even been seen sleeping on roofs at night, but by morning the houses are empty again.

Complaints to Loudoun County Zoning Administration, needless to say, have resulted in no action.

Well, the new trend we are heralding here at the NOVA TownHall Blog is to transform anecdotes into documented reality, and with evidence coming in from around the community and my own observations from the front driveway, we will continue that trend right here.

Exhibit One: House A from our June 23 post. You know, the one across the street from my house which Loudoun County Zoning assured us idiot citizens was perfectly above-board: “A family of six and two unrelateds” – no reason to inspect.

Well tonight, someone shows up and occupies House A which was supposedly foreclosed and all the boarders evicted from.

house_a_july_5_sm.jpg

There are some lingering bad feelings about this particular residence, mainly because the voluminous collection of refuse in the back yard is still there: thirty to fifty bags of garbage a variety of junkyard-style trash in the yard and the back deck piled with refuse. When the car arrived, neighbors called the police tonight and five Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office cruisers showed up, deputies surrounded the house, knocked on the doors, but whoever was inside did not open up. No warrant, so no authorization to enter.

But let’s hand it to our Sheriff’s Office: they knew the resolution of the June situation and that the house was supposed to be empty, and they did all they could – at the present time. That’s the plus side. The minus side is we still have a festering landfill right here and our government entities are apparently powerless to do anything about it – a situation that could have been entirely avoided if our zoning enforcement officer had done what obviously needed to be done about two months ago when the first complaint was filed!

Thank you, Terry Wharton. I am sure someone, somewhere, is pleased that this property owner like so many others in Sterling was given a free pass.

Alas, we’re not the only ones with a problem caused by a broken Zoning Administration division. This is 504 W. Beech (I will make no attempt to protect anyone’s privacy because this one is so egregious):

504_w_beech_sm.jpg

The house on the right is 504. Neighbors complained about a boarding house being run from this location for well over a year, and the house was foreclosed several months ago, yet it remained occupied. Neighbors continued to complain to no avail. When the tenants finally left they cleaned the place out, from the major appliances to cabinets to doors to the garage doors.

The house to the left of it has a For Sale sign on it – has been on the market for quite a while. Too bad for them, eh? Laws on the books are not enforced, and the law-abiding citizens of Sterling (who I am convinced our county government considers first-class “chumps”) consequently get hosed.

504_w_beech_back_sm.jpg

Yes, even windows were removed. A resident of this court said they watched all this happening, reported it to the appropriate agencies in Leesburg, and were ignored.

It gets worse. There is another specific case going on right now which may be far more revealing than either of these, because evidence is piling up about a home purchasing mortgage-and-refinancing scam which might explain much of what has been happening in our area. It appears some of these boarding houses have been the result of a loophole in lending practices, in which someone can buy multiple residences, sell and refinance them several times over, then leave with a wad of cash and sticking the lending institutions with the bill. In the lag time between purchase and physical foreclosure, the residence is rented out to illegal boarders, and the rent money kept as additional profit. Banks, and eventually taxpayers, are left to pick up the final bills.

More to come – I expect MUCH more – on that matter. The Loudoun County government, in particular the Zoning Administration division and possibly the Commonwealth Attorney’s Office and some other departments, definitely has some ‘splainin’ to do, if you ask me.

UPDATE: A group of Loudoun citizens met tonight to discuss these and other issues, and the consensus was we really need to find out whether any of the members of our Board of Supervisors – beside Eugene Delgaudio – is even conscious of what is happening here. The violations would not likely be allowed to stand if they were occurring anywhere other than in Sterling.

Something is very fishy in our county government, folks. I sense a groundswell of outrage from the citizens in eastern Loudoun.

UPDATE: The car in front of House A was gone by 6:30 the next morning, and did not return last night. Yesterday afternoon someone looked in the backyard and said the gate was open and it was relatively clean, so thank goodness for the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office! Even though they would not have had to be there if Zoning had done its job in the first place, our deputies do get results just by maintaining a presence. UPDATE II: Another neighbor informs me the bags of trash had been removed over a week ago so all that was back there when the deputies came was junk like car seat, wire spool, miscellaneous construction-related trash.

Really interesting read … as long as you don’t mind a rare expletive. David Berlinski is a rather interesting character. For those that want to say religion is the only reason for arguing intelligent design, he must be their worst nightmare. Irreligious would be a good description — though capable of quoting from at least four of the major world religions, he seems to not care for any of them himself. The Devil’s Delousion, Atheism and Its Scientific Pretensions has some of the best jokes on science I’ve seen. It points out the religiously (i.e., unproven and unprovable) held views of much of modern scientists.

Berlinski is an agnostic … a “secular Jew” … for whom religion did not take hold. But he certainly knows that atheists are just as dogmatic in their doctrine about the lack of a god as any religous lead is about the existence of God.  While sometimes the book is rather dense (what would you expect from someone that has his phD in philosophy and was a post-doctoral fellow in mathematics and molecular biology) it is mostly very approachable, and spectacularly funny.

This is something I would not recommend to anyone that would be truly offended by 3 or 4 off color words in a book, but it is something that I find absolutely compelling in argumentation that flies in the face of modern physics and biology. It is rare indeed to find someone that both understands the mathematics and science and is willing to challenge the “party line”. It is especially refreshing to see this from someone that is saying all this from an agnostic position and so proving intelligent design is not just a religious position.

In a singular demonstration of professional collegiality, Sterling District Supervisor Eugene Delgaudio and the woman he defeated for that office in the November 2007 election, Jeanne West, were the key spokespersons in the WUSA Channel 9 news report aired tonight at 11:00 pm. Both went on record to denounce zoning violations that have persisted in Sterling.

Click here to watch the video on the WUSA site.

The backdrop for the story was this scene at the intersection of Johnson and Beech – which is right across the street from Jeanne’s house – where digging equipment and cable for the Verizon FIOS installation project have been illegally stored on a neighborhood street.

It was quite a surprise to see Eugene and Jeanne as the co-subjects of the news piece, but I think the profusion of zoning violations in Sterling has brought us to the point that everyone in the community needs to come together to seek a solution. Congrats, and THANK YOU, to the two of them for finding this common ground.

The news story did not touch on whether this was the same equipment that had been parked across the street from MY house several weeks ago. In fact, I am not sure if they even mentioned Verizon by name. But it’s a good start to bringing public awareness to this problem, which I definitely plan to continue pursuing.

The video is priceless and quite flattering to both of these esteemed public figures.

I just got word that local television station WUSA 9 is filming in the neighborhoods of Sterling right now, focusing on blighted houses and Verizon equipment parked on our streets. The report will likely be aired on the late news tonight.

UPDATE: Heh. Here is what Channel 9 was filming.

 

Verizon equipment parked in SterlingApparently a group of residents from neighboring houses came out to see the camera crew, and told them that there were indeed people working on the Verizon FIOS project living here.

This is around the corner from my house, about 1/4 mile away from “House A.” I wonder, now that everyone got kicked out of House A, if some of them just moved around the corner. I’m going to go by in a little while and see if any of the same trucks show up. In any case, it looks like the tactic is to just move the equipment to another street and hope nobody notices.

Being on the street, this violation should be addressed by the Sheriff’s Office, and hopefully someone will call it in or maybe some deputy will see tonight’s report. Then, it will be moved into a driveway, and it will be the Loudoun County zoning enforcement team’s turn to shine.

Ahem.

For those who are not caught up, here are my reports from

June 23

July 2.

In addition, here is my letter in today’s Independent:

Enforce the Zoning

I read with interest your front page story on “eastern Loudoun initiatives” under consideration by our Board of Supervisors. For residents of Sterling who wonder why our zoning laws have been so flagrantly abused the past few years, with overcrowded houses allowed to persist and commercial enterprises allowed to operate out of neighborhood homes, I may have found part of the answer.

I recently did some research as a result of a “problem house” on our street which, once again, Loudoun County Zoning refused to do anything about. I wrote a story detailing this case on June 23 at novatownhall.com. It turns out that the only member of the Loudoun County zoning enforcement team who speaks Spanish – and therefore, for obvious reasons, the point person for inspections of overcrowding and other complaints in Sterling – told a college publication last summer that in addition to working for Loudoun County, she is “continuing to help immigrants though part-time work for an immigration law firm.”

Of course, there is no stigma whatsoever in advocating for “immigrants” and every American should have the freedom to take civic action on matters he or she feels strongly about. But there seems to be a blatant and unconscionable conflict of interest when the one person who is supposed to be Sterling’s chief enforcement officer is also doing legal work on behalf of those so often involved in the alleged violations here.

Most Sterling residents who have attempted to file zoning violation complaints are familiar with the excuses the county’s zoning personnel give us for doing nothing, such as “Virginia’s laws are not strong enough” to allow more rigorous enforcement. But think about this: In the neighboring town of Herndon, when the new mayor and town council first took office in July, 2006, the town had nearly 90 cases of unresolved zoning violations. As of a couple months ago, that number was hovering between five and ten, because Herndon hired additional Spanish-speaking zoning inspectors, some on a part-time basis, with the charge to get the problem fixed.

It appears what is really lacking in Loudoun County is the will to enforce the zoning laws and, at least in regard to Sterling, our county government does not really want to fix the problems.

Maybe Loudoun County Administrator Kirby Bowers should make a phone call to Herndon Mayor Steve DeBenedittis. I am certain “Mayor Steve” would furnish some references of zoning inspectors who could bring an attitude adjustment to our Department of Building and Development.

Joe Budzinski
Sterling

Another blogger passed on this weekend, as reported by Eric, longtime blog friend, virtual drinking buddy and Tom Waits brother in arms. This blogger, Winston Rand, I did not know, but if he was a friend of Eric’s I am sure he would have been a friend of mine.

It highlights the fact the blogosphere opens a new element of history and memorialization, that a public diary or collection of essays can stand as one’s monument, one’s epitaph or eulogy.

When the Acidman died a couple years ago, this fact really hit home with me. I read Rob Smith’s blog regularly, but not carefully enough to know he had any serious health issues, so his sudden death (in the midst of blogging, if I recall correctly) was a shock. Right up until the end he was writing cogent, biting, personal essays. He had done this for a long time, and, per his wishes, his blog has remained online as family members have been recycling his posts (because there are so many gosh darn good ones), so that his son will have a place to go to learn about his dad. Click here to follow his last week.

Acidman’s traffic is on average still higher than ours at NVTH, which says something, since we are roughly seven guys who are still generally alive and writing.

It evokes the question of what sort of legacy each of us is leaving on our respective blogs. If I fall dead on the keyboard tonight I would not be overly concerned with the NVTH sitemeter stats two years on, but I wonder if all this written material I’ve left would tell the accurate story for my kids and potential grandkids. They’d definitely be able to glean the fact that “Grampa was angry,” but what else?

As I approach 50, as the years pile up, dropping dead on the keyboard is no longer a distant possibility but a growing likelihood. I hope not soon, but certainly more likely with each passing year. Taking the long view I have to wonder if the legacy here is all I would want to leave.

Massachusetts State Senator J. James Marzilli Jr. is accused of sexual harassment, according to the Boston Globe. The opposition wants him thrown out of office.

The problem is, Marzilli is under indictment only. We should not be forcing politicians out of office because of allegations. Doing so opens the door for politically-based accusations and indictments.