McLean resident Cecile Pratt left the McLean Citizens Association (MCA) Planning and Zoning meeting early last Tuesday, March 26. But she did so more satisfied than when she arrived.
“I’m satisfied with the response from the panel,” said Pratt regarding a question she asked about the preservation of perennial streams. “But, I don’t believe the citizens have much power in Fairfax County. Developers hold most of the cards,” she said.
The panel Pratt referred to included five members of the Fairfax County Department of Public Works and Environmental Services who appeared before a joint session of the MCA Planning and Zoning Committee as the MCA Environmental Committee. They were invited by the two committees' chairmen, Adrienne Whyte and Frank Crandall, respectively, to answer questions MCA members have and open a dialogue between county staff and county residents.
“This accomplished what I hoped — introduced our MCA people to organizations and processes they’re not familiar with,” said Whyte. “It exposed our people to them and what they do. It put a human face on those organizations. They demystified a segment of the county’s land use organization and processes that citizens don’t typically understand — that’s valuable,” she said.
ONE OF THE ISSUES raised was that of perennial stream preservation by Pratt. “There’s a race going on,” she said. “There’s a study to designate versus developers in a rush to pave over the streams,” said Pratt.
“The USGS (United States Geological Survey) is responsible for these maps and are behind in their work,” said Kambiz Agazi, Fairfax County Environmental Coordinator. “All localities draining to the Chesapeake Bay are required to have a scientific process to identify its perennial streams,” he said.
The state deadline to produce the new maps is March 2003, said Agazi.
Pratt wants to ensure that developers will be held responsible for following the guidelines to be connected to the new maps, which have yet to be created.
“It is in the best interest of all developers and citizens to have the new maps in place,” said Agazi, noting there will be an appeals process should disputes arise over the new maps.
And although Pratt left the meeting satisfied with the panel’s response, she was still critical of the county at large. “Falls Church has found money for stream improvements — meanwhile, this county is still just thinking about it,” she said.
In addition to the perennial stream issue, several attendees argued for the creation of more pathways along the stream banks and more use of land for the public.
But McLean resident Bara Milon argued in favor of privacy rights. After thanking the panel for attending, Milon said she owns “several acres” in stream areas. “I’m concerned about losing privacy to trails running through my property. We bought our property to enjoy our privacy.”
PROPERTY RIGHTS continued to be prevalent issues during the application portion of the joint meeting. The Exxon on the corner of Old Dominion Drive and Chain Bridge Road application for a carwash and the Linway Terrace rezoning application were heard.
Landscaper-architect Ed Hamm, on behalf of the Exxon, presented an artist’s rendering of the future of the corner Exxon — replete with brick and sidewalk to “create an urban downtown feel. There’s room for planters,” all in the interest of disguising the gas station and its desire to place a carwash at the station site.
Attorney Keith Martin, representing Exxon, said sound tests were conducted in Vienna at an existing carwash that would be the same style as the one proposed for McLean. The sound of the carwash at 40 feet away is 80 decibels and at 102 feet away, the sound drops to 70 decibels, said Martin of a test conducted on March 22 at 11 a.m. “You don’t hear the carwash, but the ambient noise is louder,” he said referring to the sounds of traffic and car radios.
McLean resident Diane D’ Arcy questioned the location of the fence at the adjacent school.
The trees would be saved and the fence would be moved and rebuilt at Exxon’s expense, said Martin.
McLean resident Mark Zetts asked about the stacking flow of carwash patrons. Martin responded that there would be room for a minimum of eight cars and a maximum of 15 to 16 cars that would be moved in and out of the property with the carwash process itself taking three to five minutes per car.
McLean resident John Fredricks questioned the height of the canopy covering the gas pumps, listed at 18 feet tall.
“Trucks only need 13 feet six inches from the ground,” said Crandall, adding that he drove trucks as a younger man.
The height of the canopy and the potential hours of operation concerned Whyte. Instead of opening at 7 a.m. and closing at 10 p.m. seven days a week, Whyte countered with the suggestion of “closing at nine as a courtesy on all days and not opening at seven on weekends.”
OBJECTING to the project as a whole, Hamptons of McLean homeowners association Kathy Warye said, “It’s not consistent with what McLean sees for its future. It will add additional traffic and congestion — not add value — it’s inconsistent with the Comprehensive Plan and will impact negatively on the neighborhood.”
“I counted 46 gas pumps within a quarter mile,” said Hamptons resident Doug Potts. While Potts liked the plans laid out by the Exxon landscaper and architect for the plantings, “good landscaping does not make good planning,” he said.
McLean resident Jane Edmondson complained that the sign for the On the Run convenience store attached to the Exxon would be “too yellow and too big.”
In spite of the complaints by the neighbors, Whyte believes the Exxon carwash has a fair chance of approval and could be voted upon by the MCA Planning and Zoning Committee during its April meeting.
LINWAY TERRACE may also be up for a Planning and Zoning vote in April. Its application was more a re-application as Martin, representing the developer, served double-duty that night in presenting a revised application to the committee.
The application on the 1.2-acre piece of property initially called for a rezoning to PDH3 (planned development-housing three units per acre). That was changed to R-2 (residential development at two dwelling units per acre).
The proposed addition of a rain garden could serve two purposes. It would trap additional run-off from the increased impervious surfaces, meeting requirements, and “it’s so much nicer than dry ponds,” said Crandall.
A rain garden would have underground layers of materials – soil, sand, gravel — engineered to filter out contaminants from storm run-off, said Whyte. “It’s a best practice for stormwater management — new for Fairfax County. To a homeowner, it looks like a nice landscaped garden bed,” she said, adding that application looks to be heading for passage.