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The other side of Vint Hill

Friday, Dec. 13 | By Kipp Hanley
The former Greenwich Inn, which now serves as home to two different tenants, was "notorious" for its criminal activity, said Fauquier County Sheriff's Office spokesman Lt. James Hartman. Fauquier Times Staff Photo/Randy Litzinger
With a pending sale to a residential developer and various commercial entities adding on or constructing new locations on-site, Vint Hill is starting to blossom.

But the current reality of at least some of the former Army surveillance base is not so picturesque.

Stroll down Bludau Drive on the back side of the ballfields and you will find an assortment of old brick buildings in various states of neglect.

Huge holes in windows dot the former Army living facilities and graffiti is evident in at least one of the upstairs rooms.

Next store is the now defunct Greenwich Inn. Aside from beautiful mural of the Fauquier County countryside painted on the side of the building, the one-story brick structure looks like a place Norman Bates would feel comfortable running.

In the roughly 10 years it existed criminal issues were common there, said Fauquier County Sheriff's Office spokesman Lt. James Hartman.

"At one point in time, it did have a notorious reputation," Hartman said.

Even the special exception request to Fauquier County in April of 2007 states that the mural was recently commissioned to "lessen the impact of the structure on the local setting."

Sadly, there are people living in the 14-room motel today per a special arrangement with the property owner.

One is a single mother of two daughters, who chose not to be be identified for the story.
She has been living at the hotel for two years after a business venture in Vint Hill went south and the landlord agreed to let her stay on the property until he sold it.

She gets a good deal on her rent but has to keep an eye out on the property, which non-profit People Inc. is attempting to transform into affordable housing for up to 65 families.
Given her financial situation – which is less than $20,000 a year and no child support from her ex-husband – she would like to see the place made available for those less fortunate.

Only those making up to 60 percent of the median household income in Fauquier County would be eligible to live in the housing development. That would easily include the woman, who works in the county.

"I am a single mom trying to survive," the woman said in a phone interview last week. "It's not easy to try to find a place where I can afford to live with my two daughters."

The woman said she will stay there as long as she can. Should it be converted into new housing, the woman would likely be the first in line.

"I would consider living here, unless I win the Mega Millions [lottery]," the woman laughed .

The future of those buildings is uncertain at this point, though.

Last week, the Planning Commission unanimously recommended denial of People Inc.'s application. There has also been widespread opposition to the project from the neighboring residents who have stated they don't want more housing, especially affordable housing.

The woman said living there, at times, has been a bit dicey. Several people were arrested for stealing copper wires and other items from the abandoned buildings next door to her when she moved in in 2011.

The first night she was there, she saw that someone was in one of the adjacent buildings. She called the police and the perpetrators were caught in the act by law enforcement.

"The first night was really scary," the woman said. "I saw movement inside the building and lights [were on] inside the building and someone was talking. I didn't want people to come here thinking there was no one [living] here."

The Vint Hill Conservancy spends approximately $14,000 a year in security from the Sheriff's Office, which covers the entire campus, said Vint Hill Economic Development Authority Director Tim Harms.

While the EDA Board of Commissioners has not taken a stance on the People Inc. application, the sooner the buildings are redeveloped, the better, said Harms.

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