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Votes

Sports Facility, Amendment Cause Real Concern

Fairfax County staff is recommending approval of the county Park Authority's plan to amend the county zoning ordinance so it could form a partnership with a commercial entity. Doing so would enable professional soccer team D.C. United to build a training facility on environmentally sensitive land in Centreville.

But the whole idea of it — plus staff's wording of proposed development conditions to carry it out — has community residents and groups so uneasy that one of these groups formally rejected the plan, Tuesday night, and the county Planning Commission has deferred its Sept. 19 public hearing on it until Oct. 30.

"My concern — shared by many other citizens in and out of this district — is that, if this zoning-ordinance amendment [ZOA] is passed, it sets a precedent," said Frank Ojeda of Sully Estates. "We'd have the ordinance in place to have a stadium. This is a contract between the county and a private athletic club, and there's a contingent in Northern Virginia that wants Major League baseball here."

He, and several others wearing "No ZOA" stickers on their clothing, spoke during Tuesday night's meeting of the West Fairfax County Citizens Association (WFCCA) Land-Use Committee. And, concerned about environmental issues, WFCCA member Chris Terpak-Malm said she's "thrilled that the public hearing has been delayed because I think everyone needs a little more time to digest everything."

In spring 2000, the county purchased 169 acres at Old Lee and Braddock Roads in Centreville. The western half will remain oak/hickory forest, but the eastern half — the Quinn property may be developed.

It'll have easy access from Route 28. And the county transportation plan calls for the upgrading of Old Lee Road there, from two to four lanes, from Willard to Pleasant Valley Road. Old Lee will also be realigned with Braddock through the site, and a new entrance road will come off of Braddock.

If D.C. United gets a green light for its training facility, it's promised to help fund construction of seven soccer fields for local youth teams on the Quinn property. It'll also build two, premier rectangular fields there for its own practices.

Local youth could use them for tournaments, and D.C. United would hold training clinics to help the young athletes improve their skills. And the seven fields — lighted, like the premier fields would be — would help fill the serious shortage of soccer fields in the Sully District.

The county doesn't have the estimated $18 million it would cost to build it all, alone, so staff favors the public/private partnership. But Quinn is on land zoned "residential conservation" (RC) — and that's what troubles so many people. It's in the Water Supply Protection Overlay District and the Cub Run Watershed, and its runoff flows directly into the Occoquan Reservoir — the county's drinking-water source.

The Aug. 5 county staff report proposes additional standards to safeguard the RC land, but the WFCCA disagrees with many of them and recommends conditions of its own:

* For proper water drainage, impervious surfaces should be prohibited; the public/private use should be oriented to an arterial roadway, like every other non-residential use in the RC; nothing should be allowed in the 50 percent of the land that must remain undisturbed; land that couldn't be developed anyway shouldn't count as part of this 50 percent;

* The building should have a square-footage cap; it should have a 250-foot undisturbed buffer; it should not adversely affect the character and value of the surrounding area; lighting, public-address systems and retail sales there should be prohibited; special events and tournaments should be associated with the primary purpose of the facility; hours should be 8 a.m.-dusk; and pesticides and chemicals should be prohibited within a certain distance of the streams, etc.

The WFCCA then voted unanimously, 9-0, to oppose the ZOA as written in the Aug. 5 staff report and will send its conclusions to the Planning Commission, Supervisor Michael R. Frey (R-Sully) and Board of Supervisors Chairman Kate Hanley.

Terpak-Malm also said the staff report doesn't delineate wetlands clearly enough. "When it's too wet to even build temporary fields there, it tells you there's a problem," she said. "We don't think the [ZOA] is in conformance with the [Comprehensive] Plan or with what the RC is supposed to be."

Ojeda said it flies in the face of the county's own Occoquan Downzoning, implemented 20 years ago to protect the county's water supply. "I have no problems with D.C. United," he told the WFCCA. "Tell the Supervisors to put in definitive requirements about this building. I'm a citizen and I want to be heard, and I fear this [ZOA] shuts that door forever."

Jerry Jasper of Sully Estates also has traffic concerns. "I'd love to have a park in my backyard, but not this one," he said. "On a tournament Saturday, we're talking about 12,000 right and left turns at that entrance, with no traffic signal. It should be made mandatory that public safety cannot be jeopardized at this site."