County supervisors have granted one last extension to the owner of a house on Ashburn Road that has been declared blighted for more than two years, since March 2018.
The county’s blight ordinance holds that if the property owner does not clear or clean up a blighted property, the government will clear the property itself and put a lien on the property for the cost of the demolition. It has already been used against several other properties since the ordinance was adopted in 2017; in all cases so far, according to county staff members, the property owner eventually complied with the ordinance and cleaned up the lot.
The property on Ashburn Road has been uninhabited since 2008, and has been found by county staff members to be uninhabitable. It has a well but no sewer service. The main house is considered unfit for habitation after an inspection. Some of the buildings on the property are in serious disrepair. It is also in an industrial zoning district, having been rezoned from residential uses in 1972.
The county has repeatedly delayed taking action on the property as the owner, Carmen Felder, seeks to sell the property or have it listed as historic.
“This is a difficult issue and I empathize with Ms. Felder, however as a supervisor, we must treat all constituents equally,” said district Supervisor Sylvia Russell Glass (D-Broad Run), who inherited the issue from the previous Ashburn District supervisor, Ralph Buona. “I firmly believe the county has been fair to Ms. Felder over the past two-and-a-half years, and that she has been afforded opportunities and time—more than other property owners who have been issued a blighted determination.”
Other supervisors were harsher, with several saying it would be the last time they would consider delaying action. County Chair Phyllis J. Randall (D-At Large) said Felder, who was not at the meeting, had been “neglectful and manipulative” through the blight process.
“I’m frustrated with the manipulation and I see it for what it is, and I do not appreciate it, and this vote tonight, it is out of respect to Mrs. Glass,” Randall said. “It’s also out of respect to what this house might be, and we have to still know that, but it is not for the homeowner.”
Felder’s former representative, Jim Sisley, the owner and principal broker of Paladin Real Estate who also serves as the at-large appointee to the county Planning Commission, said last year that tax records document the sale of a half-acre property on that site on Feb. 20, 1889 by a couple from Alexandria to Sally Simmons for $135. He speculated she may have been a single black woman teaching at the nearby Ashburn Colored School, making her a rare kind of property owner at the time.
Supervisors will take up the issue of possibly demolishing the house in October.
This article was updated June 28 at 1:22 p.m. to correct an error.