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Plan for Exxon Car Wash Faces Solid Opposition from Neighbors

A citizens committee last week blessed Exxon’s plan to add a carwash to its service station at McLean’s central intersection, provided the company pays for undergrounding utilities along their road frontage on Old Dominon Drive, and a portion of the cost of undergrounding across Chain Bridge Road.

The Planning and Zoning Committee of the McLean Citizens Association approved a resolutions to support a proposal from the Exxon station that would, in effect, establish undergrounding of power, gas and cable lines as a “quid pro quo” for adding a carwash at the intersection of Old Dominion Drive and Chain Bridge Road, the central crossroads of the central business center in McLean.

However, the exact cost of the project is not yet known.

Because no study exists of the cost of undergrounding the power lines, Keith Martin, an attorney for Exxon, said Exxon will pay up to $6,000 to study the cost, provided it can be completed within six months.

“We are willing to pay for the study if Virginia Power will jump on it, and get it done quickly,” he said.

“We are willing to take a look at [paying] not a lump sum, but a percentage” of the cost, he said. Exxon had previously offered to contribute $250,000.

“In every business decision, there is a price where it makes sense, and where it doesn’t make sense,” he said.

Greg Lakin, the MCA’s representative to the MPC, said discussion at the MPC had characterized the car wash as a “lightning rod” at the intersection because of its potential for noise and its suitability at the intersection.

Fairfax County’s comprehensive plan, a guide for zoning, envisions a commercial structure where the Exxon station now exists. Lakin called that “a laudable goal, but not what is being proposed.”

In a separate meeting last week, the MPC subcommittee approved “a formula for what is fair” for undergrounding utilities at the intersection, said Phillips, the subcommitte chair.

Each applicant for redevelopment would pay the cost of undergrounding utilities for their own road frontage, including any utility poles on their property.

They would also pay one-fourth of the cost for any cables that span intersections at their property, dividing the cost four ways.

The intensity of commercial development at the central intersection in McLean has long rankled some residents who feel that four gas stations: Amoco, Crown, Exxon and Sunoco, are too many.

The Embassy Car Wash near the Goodyear store on Old Dominion Drive is within walking distance, and Crown also offers a mechanized car wash.

Most residents of The McLean Mews, with 47 residences, and the Hamptons, with 120 residences, strongly oppose the car wash.

They say its hours will extend too long, it will be unsightly, and it is a detriment to the ambiance of their neighborhood.

“None of the ‘whereases’ [in the MCA resolution] are a reason to grant the application, because the application is against the master plan,” said Phillips.

Exxon wants to add a carwash, more gas pumps, and an “On the Run” convenience store at the Chain Bridge Road location.

“We would need an ironclad offer,” she said. “I believe this is premature.

Dan DuVal, the president-elect of the MPC, said “All of us have a difficult time dealing with the lack of information about how much it will cost.”

John Fredericks of the MPC asked “Do the neighbors accept the car wash?”

“We don’t really feel the need of another car wash at all,” said Naila Achmed,” president of the Mclean Mews homeowner association. “There is not a soul in those 47 houses that supports it,” she said.

“I am a Realtor. We don’t want to be able to say in advertisements that our houses are the ones that are next to the car wash,” she said. “We don’t really see the point of another car wash.”

Doug Potts, HOA president of the 120-home Hamptons, said 45,500 cars a day use the intersection of Chain Bridge Road and Old Dominion Drive, one-fourth the volume of cars that use the Woodrow Wilson Bridge.

“It’s almost like you giveth and you taketh away. You give us the streetscape, and then you take it away by increasing the traffic at that intersection,” he said. “Exxon is proposing a marginal redevelopment that suits what the Exxon prototype is.”

“This is a big step backwards. This institutionalizes for another 20 years a gas station at the site,” he said.

Asked what he finds objectionable, Potts said, “It's not so much the noise. It’s the aesthetics.”

“It just doesn’t excite us,” he said.

The Fairfax County Planning Commission is scheduled to hear the Exxon proposal on July 25.