The Junking of Annandale
Rather than Gripe, Help Take Back Our Community
By: M. Callahan
You have a good clear-out. Some items are immediately binned. Others have years of wear left. Where will you donate them? Treasure Trove, on Columbia Pike in the Annandale Shopping Center, will be happy to accept your gently worn clothes, furniture, and household goods. Treasure Trove donates their profits to our own INOVA Fairfax Hospital. Last year, they were able to purchase the first ever pediatric ambulance, a vitally needed piece of equipment which will benefit hundreds of families each year.
Goodwill on John Marr Drive will also gratefully accept your donations. Goodwill funds free job training and employment services for people with disabilities and disadvantages, playing a major role with individuals in our own community. There is also Salvation Army and Purple Heart. In other words, sufficient choice is available.
Unfortunately, Annandale is being swamped by donation drop-off boxes from a few legitimate organizations who should know better, but more often from profit seeking individuals who then re-sell the donated items; duping those donating in the process. Their boxes rarely reveal any contact information. Often they are intentionally marked to deceive, such as one marked Saint Jude Clothing Company with the first two words in bold huge print, and the last two almost too small to read. When commercial property owners discover a box installed, without their permission, they have every right to remove it, regardless of who is sponsoring the box.
Sadly, you can be certain that if one box survives for a few weeks, more will soon spring-up alongside. Additionally, there is a health hazard that comes with these boxes since garbage and environmentally hazardous waste is just as often tossed into, or alongside.
In rapid response to complaints by residents and commercial property owners, Mason District Supervisor Penny Gross requested the Fairfax County Department of Planning and Zoning to, “work on language for a Zoning Ordinance Amendment that would establish regulations for donation drop-off boxes, which are most similar to an accessory structure to an existing principal use.” Further information on the Zoning Ordinance Amendments should be available in the spring.
Supervisor Gross has also sent a letter to commercial property owners advising them of the problem.
“Donation boxes are not permitted in any transitional screening yard, landscaped open space, required parking space, in the public right-of-way, or any location that would impede onsite circulation or access to the site. Commercial property owners have the right to remove donation boxes placed without permission. Commercial property owners also have the right to remove accumulated trash and debris that may be on their property as a result of the placement of donation boxes,” advised Gross in her letter.
Under current zoning, donation boxes are not permitted in the front yard of any lot less than 36,000 square feet. On larger lots, they must meet certain set-back requirements, which is generally 40 feet. Taking a six minute tour of just three Annandale streets revealed 16 boxes. An exponential number most likely exists.
On-going efforts are being made to both clean-up Annandale, and revitalize her central business district. Revitalization does not simply include the building of new multi-use structures while clearing out dilapidated ones. Revitalization includes providing the most attractive community, both for the enjoyment of the residents, and to encourage further rebuilding or re-purposing of existing structures. Beautification comes in many forms. It starts with regular area wide clean-ups which Annandale hosts each April. Next, clearing out eyesores such as donation drop-off boxes, advertising boxes at bus stops, commercial vehicles cluttering both residential and commercial streets, commercial dumpsters visible from the road, and excessive signage. These too are visual litter just as objectionable as trash carelessly tossed on the roadways. To prevent the junking of Annandale, every resident needs to familiarize themselves with county codes, and be prepared to report offenses rapidly and repeatedly to the governing authority. Maybe it is time to join in the effort to take back our community, rather than simply griping about it.
Questions: The Office of Code Compliance: 703-324-1300 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Submit an online confidential complaint at: http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/fido/complaints/comp_detail.aspx?catid=14&probcode=2
Be Proactive-Report Violations
Rapidly & Repeatedly
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