Community yard sales are commonplace throughought Fairfax County, but some Mason District residents say their neighbors are taking the household yard sale to a new extreme.
Richard Zambito, vice president of the Parklawn Civic Association, has documented the sale of multiple used cars and rows of appliances — as well as recurring “estate” sales — in the front yards of homes on Braddock Road in Alexandria. He says a handful of residents are using their homes more like a business than a residence.
“It’s cheap real estate when you’re using a home to conduct commercial sales,” he said.
The frequent sales can cause traffic problems and potentially are harmful to property values in the area, said Zambito and Mollie Loeffler, president of the civic association and vice chair of the Mason District Council of Community Associations.
“You don’t expect to see a roadside bazaar in your neighborhood,” Loeffler said. “It’s just an overall quality of life issue.”
It is legal to stage two yard sales per year in the county, according to Mason District Supervisor Penelope Gross (D). There have been several instances in her district that have been “more of a commercial, rather than a yard sale situation.”
The cases like those on Braddock Road potentially are in violation of county zoning ordinances. However, it can take a long time for the county zoning department to resolve these types of issues, Gross said.
Zoning enforcement is complaint-based. Once a complaint is filed, a zoning inspector comes to check out the property in question. If he or she finds a violation, the property owner has a set amount of time to correct it and come into compliance, usually 30 days.
If the owner comes into compliance, the case is closed. If not, the county can take the owner to court to force him or her to comply with zoning laws.
“There is a law here, we have to follow it,” Gross said. “Which is why it takes a long time.”
Zambito has been working with zoning officials to try to get the Braddock Road residents to stop staging the sales, with mixed results. Some cases have been resolved, or the occupants moved, he said.
In other instances, it has been hard for inspectors to get the evidence they need to cite a property owner for a violation. The sales generally are a weekend occurrence, but the zoning office is closed on weekends.
By the time an inspector is able to come, often the goods are put away and the violation is resolved, Zambito said.
He now hopes to work with the local police district station and zoning officials to try to come up with a way to document the violations when they are occurring.
Zambito said he would like to see the county be able to respond more forcefully to the people who are staging the sales. He fears allowing them to continue could ultimately lead to more serious problems.
“If something as silly as this can slip through the cracks, what about the more serious stuff?” he said.