A Warning To Code Violators In Fairfax

By Amy Gardner
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Fairfax County authorities said yesterday that they have arrested and jailed the landlord of an illegal boardinghouse, the most dramatic development since county leaders launched a crackdown on overcrowding and other zoning violations in June.

Gerald E. Connolly (D), chairman of the Board of Supervisors, announced the arrest at a board meeting. Connolly, who is seeking reelection next month, has come under fire for not taking a tougher stand against illegal immigrants. His response has been to tout the county's efforts to police illegal behavior, such as the operation of overcrowded boardinghouses, rather than immigration status.

"The strike team for zoning and code enforcement has had tremendous success since its inception on June 1st, issuing over 1,700 notices of violations and corrective work orders," Connolly said. "We are shutting down boardinghouses and restoring integrity to neighborhoods that were under assault."

Neither Connolly nor county spokeswoman Merni Fitzgerald said how many illegal apartments have been shut down since the strike team was formed. Fitzgerald said the action Friday represented the first arrest as a result of the strike team's work.

Rosita Lim Ong Chang, 66, was arrested Friday and sent to jail by a judge for contempt of court. Chang was cited four years ago for illegally boarding tenants in her single-family home near George Mason University. Since then, Chang has done nothing to comply with county demands that she remove an illegal kitchen from her basement or with a 2005 court order that she notify the county every time she leases a room to a new tenant, Fitzgerald said.

Fitzgerald said Chang might have divided her four-bedroom home into as many as seven bedrooms. She said the property was the subject of numerous complaints from neighbors regarding noise, upkeep and the number of cars parked out front. Chang advertised her rooms for rent in a variety of media, including a recent online posting on Craigslist that advertised a furnished one-bedroom apartment for $800 a month, including utilities.

Chang remained in jail yesterday, Fitzgerald said. The judge has not determined the length of her jail sentence. Connolly said Chang could be fined as much as $12,900.

Chang's attorney could not be located.

In other business yesterday, county supervisors agreed to send a strongly worded letter to the Army stating their preference that 6,200 military jobs move to the site of a federal warehouse in Springfield instead of a private commercial property in Alexandria.

The jobs were originally slated to move to Fort Belvoir under the 2005 base realignment process, but the Army has agreed to look for an alternative location to avoid a traffic disaster in southeastern Fairfax County.

"If we move [the jobs] to the alternative site, however desirable it may be in other respects, those folks will be driving, and we'll get that traffic," Connolly said.

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