A real estate agent appointed to the Fairfax County Board of Zoning Appeals last month is under investigation by the Virginia Real Estate Commission for allegedly telling several Reston home purchasers in 1977 that their homes would be bordered by parkland that is actually the route of a proposed highway.
Fairfax County consumer protection officials said that the state agency two years ago offered to terminate its investigation of Clark L. Massie, appointed to the zoning board Oct. 26, if he would agree to a six-month suspension of his real estate license. Massie, who was named to the board by the Fairfax Circuit Court on the recommendation of County Board Chairman John F. Herrity, rejected the proposed settlement and asked that the matter be delayed until lawsuits over the issue were resolved.
The commission agreed to the delays, which have been extended partially because of changes in the agency's legal staff, according to state officials.
Massie was accused in complaints filed with Fairfax officials of informing several prospective home purchasers that their homes were along a park and not along the proposed route of the Springfield Bypass, said Ronald B. Mallard, director of the Fairfax Department of Consumer Affairs.
"I don't believe there is any validity to it," Massie said in an interview. He said he did not recall his conversations with the home buyers who had purchased the houses on Archdale Road in the Stratton Woods subdivision. He said the the lawsuits against him and the companies he represented have been "favorably resolved."
"The real estate commission investigated the alleged misrepresentations as violations of the commission's regulations and determined that probable cause exists to believe a violation of the commission's regulations has taken place," Mallard said in a June 4, 1980, memorandum to Supervisor Martha V. Pennino, whose district includes Stratton Woods. The Fairfax Department of Consumer Affairs completed its own investigation of the case and recommended that the state commission revoke or suspend Massie's license, Mallard said.
"It is still an open investigation," said Barbara Woodson, a spokeswoman for the commission.
The three civil suits were settled out of court in 1981, according to records in Fairfax Circuit Court, although the commission still has not set a hearing on the case. Neither Massie nor the individuals involved in the litigation would disclose the terms of the settlements.
Massie was appointed to fill the unexpired term of John Yaremchuk, who resigned from the Board of Zoning Appeals last summer. The term expires Feb. 18, 1983. The board is the only public board in the county appointed by the county's Circuit Court judges, a procedure that is a remnant of the old Byrd machine.
The board has final control over the granting of exceptions to county zoning regulations. Such changes sometimes can translate into dramatic increases or decreases in property values. The supervisors cannot overrule the board's decisions, which has been a constant source of annoyance to the supervisors.
In recent years the supervisors have eroded much of the zoning board's power by giving themselves control over more types of zoning cases. And though the supervisors do not name board members, the court has begun accepting recommendations from supervisors for filling positions on the seven-member board.
Herrity said that at the time he submitted the name of Massie, who recently formed Tetra Partnerships, a real estate brokerage and consulting firm, he was unaware of the investigation. Herrity said he learned about it before the announcement of the appointment, but did not try to stop it.
"I may have had second thoughts, if I had known [at the time of the nomination]," said Herrity. "He [Massie] came recommended by a lot of different individuals."
Chief Fairfax Circuit Judge Barnard F. Jennings could not be reached for comment on the appointment.
Suzanne Paciulli, first vice president of the Fairfax Chamber of Commerce, said she was one of the individuals who recommended Massie to Herrity. "I knew he had been investigated," Paciulli said. "But it was no concern to me as a major problem." Paciulli said she did not know that the investigation was still continuing.
In one of the civil suits related to the allegations, James E. and Winifred M. Feeney sought $24,500 from Massie and the realty firms he represented "for causes based in deceit." The Feeneys charged in their suit that Massie informed them orally that the wooded land backing the lot they purchased on Archdale Road "had been dedicated . . . as common parkland."
The Feeneys said they "suffered substantial damage due to the fact that the 'wooded parkland' behind the plaintiff's lot is the planned location of a limited access, four-lane highway."
Bruce Lipin, who purchased a house at 2308 Archdale Rd., said in another suit that he would not have purchased the property had he known the wooded area backing the property had been set aside for the proposed Springfield Bypass.