Hyland's Daughter Discovered in Shadow of 'Frankenhouse'
Thursday, August 2, 2007
Supervisor Gerald W. Hyland (D-Mount Vernon) opined colorfully at last week's Fairfax County Board of Supervisors meeting about builders who were beating the 35-foot height limit on homes in his district by artificially elevating lots with as much as nine feet of extra dirt.
The piling on not only dwarfed older neighboring homes, he said, but soaked them with added storm runoff from the higher elevation.
"Perhaps it is necessary for these new homeowners to climb to the lofty top and keep a vigil against their neighbors who may gather at midnight, torches and pitchforks in hand, ready to slay the Frankenhouse," Hyland said. He asked county staff members to see what could be done to close the height loophole.
Hyland neglected to mention that one of Frankenhouse's victims was his daughter, lawyer Christiane G. Hyland, whose modest ranch home on Wingfield Place in the Hollin Hall neighborhood sits in the shadow of a $1 million, four-bedroom, four-bathroom behemoth under construction next door. What irks some Hollin Hall residents is that Hyland didn't seem nearly as interested last summer when they complained about home construction. Original buyers in the neighborhood had combined narrow lots to build their homes, leaving the lots to be divided later by developers who were able to erect tall, skinny McMansions. At the time, Hyland, citing decisions by the county zoning administrator and the Board of Zoning Appeals, said there was little he could do.
Hyland disputes the suggestion that he wasn't aggressive on the issue last year. He said that he didn't mention his daughter's situation because "she felt uncomfortable" about going public and that, once again, the new home was legally "a done deal."
Performance reviews of professional staff by elected officials are closely held matters, nearly always discussed in closed session, as allowed by state law.
That wall of silence sustained a rare, and refreshing, breach July 23 when Falls Church City Council member David Snyder went after City Manager Wyatt Shields and City Attorney Roy Thorpe from the dais before a vote on their annual compensation packages. Snyder criticized Thorpe's handling of recent litigation involving the city's water system. He also had a list of grievances involving Shields, including the direction of the city's economic development policy -- which he said amounted to giving residential developers "whatever they want" -- and the police department, which is at the center of a civil rights suit and has lost its accreditation.
Snyder called his statement, which was recorded and posted on the Web by the Falls Church political blog Blueweeds, "basic fundamental government oversight." Mayor Robin Gardner saw it as "completely out of line and unprofessional."
"I'm embarrassed as a council member to have you sit up here and dress down any of our employees in public," she said, her voice wavering with anger. Shields, who has been in office since January, was not responsible for some of the problems cited, she added.
She was proud to serve with them, she said, adding: "I cannot say the same in regard to serving with you."
Albo Dodges Voter Abuse
By all rights, Del. David B. Albo (R-Fairfax) should be in the same predicament as many of his fellow Northern Virginia lawmakers: figuring out how to avoid ending up as political roadkill this fall in the voter uproar over "abusive" driving fees.
But Albo, who took a leading role in pushing the new fees as part of the transportation funding package passed by the General Assembly, is comfortably off to the side, with no Democratic opposition in November.
He supported the transportation deal this year because the "R" after his name had become an increasing liability in Democrat-leaning Fairfax. He saw the remedial fees as a way to generate $65 million a year when the Republican-controlled General Assembly wasn't willing to raise conventional taxes to pay for roads and rail projects.
In February, lawmakers voted overwhelmingly to assess fees as high as $3,000, payable over three years, on felony and misdemeanor convictions for such crimes as reckless and drunken driving. Virginia motorists with eight points on their records would have to pay a surcharge of $100, plus $75 for each additional point. Failure to pay results in license suspension.
Albo owned up at every turn that the fees weren't perfect. They don't apply to out-of-state drivers. They're steep, and bad drivers won't like them. They disguise a financing scheme to pay for transportation as a highway safety measure. Consider this quote from the floor of the House of Delegates:
"The weakness of this bill, the weakness of it is that someone who's from New Jersey and blows through Virginia and gets charged with reckless driving doesn't have to pay this remedial fee," Albo said.
At a time when more than 165,000 people have signed an online petition seeking the fees' repeal, that video clip would be great fodder for a campaign commercial.
But in a year when Democrats could be beating him with a baseball bat, they couldn't find anyone to step up to the plate.
Welcome to America, Carol
Herndon officials ended their awkward legal standoff with former mayor and Town Council member Carol Bruce on July 18 when they issued a business license for her communications firm.
Bruce, who lost reelection to the council last year amid a backlash over the opening of a town-supported job site for day laborers, was angry about a new law requiring individual business owners to prove legal immigration status before receiving a license. When she filed to renew this year, she didn't include the necessary sworn statement.
The town sent her a new license anyway March 14. When officials discovered the mistake, they gave her until May 7 to comply or face revocation of her permit. She responded by hiring a lawyer and suggesting she might file a lawsuit to challenge the ordinance.
The town blinked. In a letter to Bruce's attorney, Charles A. Tievsky, Town Attorney Richard B. Kaufman said that Town Manager Arthur A. Anselene and Director of Finance Mary Tuohy "used powers of field investigation" to "locate a formal, solemn, and good faith declaration under oath by Ms. Bruce" that she was, in fact, a citizen. Their discovery: her certificate of candidate qualification, filed in 2006.
"The Director of Finance concludes that Ms. Bruce is not an illegal alien," Kaufman wrote.