County Cleans Up an Old Road

County Cleans Up an Old Road

County and Supervisor Kauffman tackle Cinder Bed Road.

After Madeleine Galvin moved into the Island Creek community in Springfield four years ago, she and a friend would drive the short distance to Cinder Bed Road and look around.

"It was filthy," she said. "There were people sleeping in the woods. ... It was really a terrible, terrible nest down there. There was a chop shop."

The north end of the road, nestled in the woods, not far from the Fairfax County Parkway, had served for several years as a place where stolen cars were stripped for parts. Several scrap yards and small construction companies had set up shop without securing the proper zoning permits, even though some had paid for proper business licenses. For years, the area was "unnoticed and unwatched," according to Supervisor Dana Kauffman (D-Lee). Human waste and motor oil seeped into the ground, right in the Long Branch flood plain, an area technically designated as an Environmental Quality Corridor.

BUT AS RESIDENTIAL development such as the Island Creek and Landsdowne communities crept closer and closer to the north end of Cinder Bed Road, Kauffman's new constituents began asking for the county to clean up the area. Three years ago, Kauffman worked with the county to put together a task force composed of zoning enforcement officials as well as representatives from the fire and police departments. The task force was charged with investigating how the land was being used and threatening lawsuits to end illegal uses.

"You couldn't see a square inch of dirt on the property because of stuff," said Rob Stalzer, deputy county executive, who is leading the task force. Cars were stacked five or six high in the lots, he added.

What the task force found was that property owners, some of whom lived outside the county, would illegally subdivide their parcels and lease them out to businesses that would not follow the county's zoning policies.

At the same time, Kauffman got his colleagues on the Board of Supervisors to approve a change in the county's Comprehensive Plan to allow industrial uses on the site. Once the plan was changed, Kauffman's office and Department of Planning and Zoning officials approached landowners and tried to convince them to submit rezoning applications to legitimize their businesses and offer concessions to the surrounding neighborhoods.

"We've worked closely with particularly the Island Creek community to make certain that we get appropriate buffering, all recognizing that this is one of the few industrially zoned pieces of land left in the county," Kauffman said. "You have one of those unusual instances where residential and industrial zoning butt up against each other."

IN 2001, the first such rezoning was approved by the Board, and a concrete company that had been violating zoning regulations agreed to provide buffering and other amenities required by the Board.

On July 24, the Planning Commission recommended approval of another rezoning. The applicant in this case, Keith Martin, runs a small construction and concrete company. He bought the property from the original owner who didn't want to comply with the county's regulations.

Martin, a Springfield resident, told the Commission that he bought the 1-acre parcel because it was near his home.

"We bought a piece in a very controversial area, a very ghetto mentality," he said. "I think we're going to put up a very nice looking [industrial] place that will set the model for the entire area."

When Martin bought the parcel, it was cluttered with about 200 broken down cars. Other assorted car parts were strewn around. An uninhabited old house was being used for more storage. As part of his application, Martin promised to protect the flood plain, provide buffering for the surrounding community and a concrete sidewalk in front of his site.

Gregory Budnik, an engineer with GJB Engineering, who represented Martin, said his company has also been contacted by two other property owners on Cinder Bed Road.

"Now the owners of the land are sitting there trying to figure out what to do," he said.

TODAY, SEVERAL lots on Cinder Bed Road have been cleared. A few old car lots and junkyards remain, but a sense of change is on the way. A wooden board set up by the road announces the construction of a new development nearby named Hawthorne.

Stalzer estimated that the task force has removed about 82 tons of debris from the 60-acre area. An environmental clean-up project focusing on Long Branch is also about three-quarters finished, said Kauffman.

"Since we started that effort, new residential development has come up to the line, and we've worked closely with both the individual landowners and the community leadership to try to prompt them to be good neighbors," he said.

Budnik, who is also the president of the Newington Civic Association, located about a mile away from Cinder Bed Road, said Kauffman deserved credit for cleaning up the road. He said he's seen "a wave of change which is slow but progressive."

Galvin, the Island Creek resident, is also optimistic.

"It's absolutely moving in the right direction," she said. "We're very thrilled with it."