Manassas Journal Messenger | Alley creates dispute in neighborhood

Peter Perretta and Gary Petitt have been neighbors free of hard feelings for over eight years, yet now an alleyway, not more than four or five strides across, divides them.

Perretta and his wife Pamela, beginning last month, have sought to have the city vacate the 15-foot public alley that runs between Robson Drive and Beauregard Avenue — against which Petitt’s property butts — turning the mostly grown-over alley over to block property owners.

In the past eight months, the alley there skirts along the side of his property has become a modern day “Lovers’ Lane,” where teenagers hang out and apparently drink, Perretta said.

Since the beginning of the summer, incidents have become almost daily occurrences, he said. He has had some direct encounters with belligerent trespassers.

Because of the number of incidents, “It’s gotten to the point where calling the cops is ridiculous,” said Perretta, a 10-year resident and father, who said he fears for the safety of his two young girls.

Sgt. Bill Goodman, a spokesman for the Manassas City Police Department, said the police are conducting a comprehensive study of the block and should release their findings later this week.

Last month, five of the nine property owners on the block joined Perretta in signing a petition calling for the city’s vacation of the alley. However, one resident, who wished to remain nameless, expressed regret over signing the petition, adding they have never had any complaints with vagrants disturbing them from the alleyway.

Monday night the request received a public hearing before the City Council. A decision by the Council will be handed down Monday.

On the other side of the alley and issue, Petitt, one of the four property owners who oppose the closure of the alley, said he has “never, never ever” seen any conspicuous activity in the alley.

“To my knowledge, none of the other property owners have seen any type of activity either,” Petitt said. A large-number-of-car-family, Petitt said his family uses the alley for extra parking for his own teenage drivers and his father-in-law who lives with the family.

Perretta said it is possible Petitt and the other opposing home owners are simply unaware of theactivity because their houses face Grant Avenue, giving them no direct vantage points into the alley.

William Swartz, city assistant director of public works, recommended council not vacate the disputed strip because it is still used by interior property owners to access their backyards. Perretta contends this use by his neighbors is infrequent.

The city has vacated similiar former public utility alleys but only when the strip has been determined to be overgrown and not in use, Swartz said.

Rhonda Moore, a two-year resident who lives two doors down from Petitt, said she frequently walks down the alley in the evening and feels safe sending her five children racing down it during the school year to catch their bus.

“Everytime we walk back there I never saw anyone partying,” Moore said. “I’ve never seen none of that.”

Both Perretta and Petitt denied a feud is simmering because of the alley dispute. Perretta said he recognizes Petitt and the other home owners are looking after their own self interests, and a father himself, Petitt said he understands that Perretta is acting on the behalf of his children.

“What was encouraging was that everyone [in opposition to vacation] who got up at the [Council] meeting said that we understand their concern,” Petitt said. “All of us are parents.”

In a letter to Swartz dated June 13, the Perrettas write, “We think it would be a shame to see this beautiful neighborhood lose its long time homeowners because the quality of life we have all come to expect in this area is eroded by young people with no respect for the community in which they live.”

“It’s not a win or lose situation,” said Perretta said Tuesday night of the Council’s impending decision. “It’s an issue of my kids’ safety.”

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