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What's Best for Beulah?

A landscaping plan for the Beulah Road Property will be the focus of a public hearing next week.

Debate continues next week on the use of a Town-owned property near Beulah Road Northeast, as Town citizens are invited to give feedback on a landscaping plan intended for the property. Over the last several months, a controversy has arisen over the site in question, 442 Beulah Road N.E., with members of the Northeast Vienna Citizens Association (NEVCA) asserting that the leaf-mulching operation that occurs on the site has disturbed the site's wooded habitat with noise and environmental pollution.

In response to these concerns, the Vienna Town Council asked Public Works director Dennis King to create a landscaping plan for the site, which would address water runoff that occurs on the site. The $4,000 landscaping plan — made by the Town's contract engineers, Whitman, Requardt and Associates LLP — proposes planting several varieties of trees around the perimeter of the leaf-mulching operation.

However, at a Town Council meeting last week, several NEVCA members said they disagreed with the plan because it didn't fully address their concerns about noise and odor. They also questioned whether the Town is violating its own zoning laws by conducting industrial activity in a residential area.

"I ask you to look very closely to see if the Town is complying with its own ordinance," said real estate attorney Sean Curtin, whose family has lived in Vienna since the late 1960s.

IN A MEMO, King countered that testing and analyzing the environmental quality of the area would be costly. As for questions about odor, King said that the Department of Public Works treats piles of leaf mulch daily with calcium oxide, or lime, which is intended to purify waste and reduce acidity.

King had added that the Department of Public Works explored conducting the leaf-mulching operation at other sites, such as the Northside Property Yard, the Nutley Street Property Yard and Southside Park, but concluded the site off Beulah Road has the ideal acreage for leaf mulching.

If the Town decides to continue its leaf-mulching operation but conduct the actual mulching outside Town limits, the Town would need to determine how much it would cost to deliver the leaves to and from mulching sites.

In the Town of Herndon, leaf mulching occurs outside Town limits because the Town does not have the land to do it in-house, according to Charlie Kemp, general services administrator in Herndon's Department of Public Works. Like Vienna, Herndon's leaf collection in its neighborhoods starts in late October and continues into early November. Depending on weather conditions, it could last until January.

After workers pick up the leaves, they dump them in a yard, where they are placed in roll-off containers. When workers have time, the containers are hauled off to a leaf-mulching location. The location varies every year depending on price and demand. This past year, leaves went to Loudoun Composting.

Kemp said Herndon uses outside help for leaf mulching due to lack of space within the Town, and also due to the expensive equipment that is required for leaf mulching. The advantage to leaf mulching, Kemp continued, is that the mulch is available to the community, while the disadvantage is that the process can be complex, especially if the population prefers organic mulch, since workers have to ensure that the elements going into the mulch are natural.

"The mulching process takes time to do it correctly," Kemp said.

In Fairfax County, leaf collection occurs from October to December. The county grinds the mulch, and interested parties can pick it up at eight distribution locations.

Both Town Council members and NEVCA members hope Town citizens attend next week's public hearing, since leaf-mulch distribution is a town-wide service. Seven percent of Town citizens benefit from the free mulch.

The public hearing takes place on Monday, April 19, during the regular Town Council meeting, which begins at 8 p.m. in the Council Chambers at Town Hall.