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Council OKs County Building Improvements

Issue brings up questions about county’s long-term future in the city.

A question about the future of county buildings in the city dominated the debate at last Tuesday’s city council meeting, as residents and council members alike sought for a solution.

The agenda item that sparked the debate was an application by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors to permit minor building improvements to the Fairfax County Maintenance Facility at 3609 Jermantown Road.

The county wanted to replace an office trailer and two storage beds with an addition to the building, which would include a rest room and shower, customer waiting area and break room, office space for the shop foreman, and storage space. The facility itself is a garage that maintains rescue vehicles.

But one homeowners association opposed the county’s request, arguing that the improvements don’t encourage county offices to move out of the city, which was an original goal of the city’s comprehensive plan.

"We’re pretty much concerned that any new construction on the site will make it more permanent," said Fairchester Woods Civic Association president Doug Schauss, adding that the association’s board members echoed his views.

Schauss also argued that any improvements to the site would increase traffic in an already traffic-heavy neighborhood.

"We believe that any activity on that site is going to mean more traffic," Schauss said.

If the county left the site instead, the city could turn the site into much-needed park land, Schauss suggested.

"That would make a nice home base for any kind of sport," Schauss said.

OTHER NEIGHBORS whose homes border the property had no objections to the county’s request, although they conceded that they weren’t near the hub of activity. As long as the chain-link fence surrounding the site was secure and trees would be planted to improve the site’s appearance, the two residents who lived nearby had no problems.

"We don’t really have any objections to proposed changes on the site," said Fairfax resident Joseph Beck.

After listening to public comment, the council voted 5 to 1 to approve the county’s permit, with council member Scott Silverthorne voting in opposition. But before the council cast its votes, the members insisted that they approved the measure with reservations.

"This is not an easy issue," said council member Gary Rasmussen. "This is not a black and white issue. However, I think we have to be realistic and accept the current time. They own the land, and there’s no major change in use of the property."

Council member Gail Lyon agreed, and added that when the city and county meet again, they should address the long-term plans of all county buildings in the city. She was also concerned about the budget constraints of the city and county.

"As long as we can come to some long-term agreement with the county," Lyon said as she cast her vote in favor of the county.

Council member Joan Cross added a provision to ensure well-groomed landscaping for the site, which was also approved by the council.

Although Silverthorne had told Schauss earlier in the meeting that not supporting the county’s permit would allow the property’s unsightliness to continue, he voted against the county request, adding that Schauss’ argument was persuasive.

"We’re doing nothing, I think, than make it more attractive to stay," Silverthorne said.

IN ADDITION to the county’s permit request, the council also voted unanimously to support an appropriation resolution in the amount of $10,000 for flood plain map use. Lyon said it would help provide surveying services to 50 Fairfax homes which lie in a flood plain, according to newly-adopted Federal Emergency Management Agency guidelines.

"I’m voting yes for it because it is a costly thing for many citizens who have already gone through a costly measure," Lyon said.

The council also passed unanimously the following items:

* The council approved the request of Jim Corridon Electric Company Inc., to allow a new structure in the resource protection area, a reduction of parking lot landscaping, the elimination of the separation between structures, parking spaces and drive aisles, and to eliminate the required parking lot curb and gutter.

* The council approved ordinance amendments pertaining to vicious and dangerous dogs and to driving motor vehicles while intoxicated.

* The council approved the consideration of condemnation of a portion of property located at 4210 Orchard Drive, for a storm water sewer easement and grading and temporary construction easements. This condemnation has nothing to do with open space, Fairfax Mayor Rob Lederer insisted.

* The council agreed to defer until January the request and public hearing of Rocky Gorge Homes LLC to rezone approximately 1.29 acres at 10527, 10529, 10531, 10533, and 10535 School St.