Two new $84,500 houses at the end of a cul de sac in Fairfax County's Middleridge subdivision are now finished. So now they can be torn down.
The unsold houses on Ryers Place South of Fairfax City were completed just as the Virginia Department of Highways and Transportation began acquiring properties bordering Ox Road (Rte. 123) to widen that road.
Highway officials said that to widen the two-lane road to four lanes they will have to obtain the land under the two unoccupied houses as well as a 75-foot strip through the backyards of two other newly occupied houses on both sides of the houses scheduled for demolition.
Lionel and Anita Cohen of 10989 Ryers Pl., who under current plans will lose part of their backyard, said they were angered about the apparent lack of planning, but said they did not know where to put the blame.
According to the Cohens, the dispute is being tossed from the highway department to the home builders, to the Fairfax County zoning authorities and the land owner's lawyer.
They said they would have never invested $100,000 to buy and furnish their home if they had known that four months later they would be losing part of their backyard and potential neighbors.
Mare Bettius, the attorney for the owner of the property before Middleridge was built, called the situation "indicrous." He said when construction of the four homes at the end of the Ryers Place cul de sac began, the Virginia highway department advised the builders of the pending highway widening, and asked that an 80-foot strip of land be left undeveloped for that purpose.
Bettius and county officials said the builders, ANB Construction Corp. then left 70 feet between a fence in the backyards of the houses of the houses and the center of the present highway, 10 feet short of what highway officials requested.
The builders could not be reached for comment.
Sometime after the October 1976, request for 80 feet was made, the highway department decided more land was needed - a total of 141 feet (including an 8-foot-wide bicycle lane requested by Fairfax County and a 10-foot utility clearance), according to Donald E. Keith, the resident Fairfax highway engineer. But construction of the houses could not be stopped because money was not immediately available for purchase of the land, Keith said.
Funds for the Ox Road widening were appropriated in February and the highway department then started buying land for the widening project, Keith said.
Bettius said the highway department could have condemned the property at any time and said he believes now "everyone is literally covering their tails." He added that he believes the highway department is having to pay to destroy two new houses because "no one was paying attention."
Oscar Hendrickson, with the Fairfax County Design Review Board, said the builder "gave us more (land) than we could demand." He said the additional land the highway department now says it needs to construct the two new lanes could be attributed in part to the highway officials' plan to straighten Ox Road as they widen it.
Keith said land was also needed to create an embankment on the segment of the road near Ryers Place.
Mrs. Cohen who moved into her home in March, said she was "never informed" prior to purchasing the house about the highway department's plan to take away part of her yard.
"What I don't understand," said Mrs. Cohen, "is that the side of the road opposite ours is plain, empty farmland. There's a church further down with a big lawn, and a cemetery with four tombstones.
Mrs. Cohen said she thought one reason for the decision to add to the east side of Ox Road was that construction on the other side "might mean the loss of some putting greens at Fairfax (Courthouse) Country Club," which is just to the north across Ox Road.
"We don't consider who will yell the loudest when we make a decision," said Keith, adding that if the road were expanded on the church land and country club side of Ox Road he would probably receive more complaints.
He said country club members had voiced "strenuous objections" to taking part of their property" before, after and during public hearings" and that "their land was also valuable." A small portion of the country club land will be taken for the widening project.
One reason for the road being widened on the east side is that "you have to have a court order to move a grave and it upsets people no end," Keith said.
Keith said the highway department may reconsider the decision to take the 75-foot strip from the backyards of the two occupied houses on Ryers Place, but said the two unoccupied housescertainly would be condemned. CAPTION: Picture, These new homes on Ryers Place, scheduled to be razed for widening of Rte. 123, behind the fence, are valued at $84,500 each. By Douglas Chevalier - The Washington Post; Map, Location of Ryers Place. The Washington Post