One week after Arlington officials ordered a halt, to the unauthorized expansion of a parking lot in Crystal City operated by giant parking corporation Parking Management Inc. (PMI), the company finished the lot and began parking cars on it.
The expansion, which occurred Thursday, represents the third time in four months that PMI and Virginia officials have clashed over the firm's operations in South Arlington.
Yesterday, a county inspector gave a PMI official 24 hours to remove cars from the lot on South Eads Street, and warned him not to park cars there until the required county permits have been obtained.
Seven days earlier county inspector had given PMI officials a similar warning, the next day three PMI representatives began meetings with Arlington officials about correcting the problem.
"They were very apologetic," said county inspector Ronald Wactor "and said they didn't know they needed a permit to expand. Our impression was that they wanted to cooperate. We told them what they had to do to get a permit." The permit process normally takes six weeks and requires detailed engineering sketches on curbing and drainage problems.
However, sometime before 6:30 a.m. Thursday several residents of the Crystal Towers apartment complex, which overlooks the PMI lot, said they were awakened by the sound of Excavation Construction Inc. trucks and bulldozers spreading dirt on the unpaved areas of the parking lot.
County officials first discovered that PMI was expanding the lot without a permit Aug. 3 when a resident called the county to ask why a fiveman crew was clearing brush and loading it onto red, white and blue trucks owned by Excavation Construction.
When Inspector Frank Johnson arrived on the scene several hours after work had reportedly begun, he told the crew leader to produce a permit number or stop work. When Johnson returned 20 minutes later the crew members and trucks were gone.
Several county inspectors, including operations chief Dennis Johnson, were dispatched to the site Thursday."They told us they were just making the lot safe, and finishing up a few things they started, because they left so quickly the first time," Johnson said.
Early yesterday morning a zoning inspector discovered that PMI, in violation of zoning law, was parking cars on the expanded lot. A PMI lot manager said "golly, it was an accident and he didn't know the attendant was allowing people to park on the unpaved area," said inspection supervisor Theodore Payne.
Before the expanded lot, which officials estimate could accommodate 60 additional cars, can operate, state and county laws require it to be paved, landscaped and have curbing installed.
Payne said that if PMI continues to operate the lot without proper permits the county could bring misdemeanor charges against the firm.
PMI officials, including general manager John Lyon who is also president of Excavation Construction, did not return a reporter's phone calls yesterday.
In April Virginia highway officials discovered that PMI had, without permission, opened a parking lot on state owned land near the Crystal City Metro station. The state fenced off the land.
A multimillion-dollar firm headquartered in Prince George's County, Excavation Construction is being investigated by federal grand juries in Washington and Baltimore. The District of Columbia federal grand jury is investigating allegations that D.C. Superior Court Judge Robert H. Campbell suspended or revoked fines for the firm.
The Baltimore probe centers on charges that Excavation Construction and other large firms were involved in racketeering with former Teamster Union bosses in Washington and Baltimore.