Over the past year, Burke has faced many changes, not only in the two big political issues — transportation and education — but also issues that affect residents of this rapidly growing suburb.
War in Iraq
As the country started preparing for a war in Iraq, the military mission hit the people in Burke as well. A number of residents in Springfield and Burke are either in the military or work at the Pentagon and were affected by the invasion, which began in the spring of 2003. On Saturday, Jan. 18, many residents from the area took part in an anti-war demonstration on the mall in Washington, D.C. Jack McHale and Tim McKinney began fasting to protest the war on Jan. 4 and continued to Super Bowl Sunday on Jan. 26. Burke grandmother Suzanne Doherty started a local "Grandmothers for Peace" chapter and attended the march as well. Debbie Polychrones, VDOT employee, saw her son Jason shipped off that month with the U.S. Marines. Polychrones lives in Annandale but works at the Interchange Information Office in Springfield Mall.
Off Lorton Road at the site of the old prison, a Revolutionary War officer, circa 1766, lived with his family in a house called "Laurel Hill." Fast forward 237 years, and Laurel Hill is the name attached to a 2,725-acre parcel of county land that was the subject of meetings and public hearings all over Fairfax County to determine how the land will be developed.
Supervisor Sharon Bulova (D-Braddock) hosted such a meeting on Tuesday, May 27. Although the Braddock District doesn't border the property in question, it's land-use decision could concern the entire county.
"This has countywide significance," Bulova said. "A lot of things there are a lot of facilities my constituents will use."
The myriad of additions to the land, most of which are yet to be determined, include a middle school, high school, senior center, art center, golf course, landfill, fire and rescue, parkland, a bike trail and housing. The Laurel Hill Adaptive Reuse Citizens Task Force consists of citizens, county representatives, consultants and park representatives that chair the meetings.
In early November, officials broke ground on a new 18-hole golf course on the land, which will encompass former prison building views. The expected opening for the course is May 2005, and the price tag is approximately $14 million, officials said.
Burke Lake Road
In April, the 14-member Burke Lake Road Widening Task Force submitted its comprehensive plans for the widening of Burke Lake Road, which is a funded project that will widen the stretch of Burke Lake Road from the Lee Chapel intersection to the Fairfax County Parkway. Those plans were for a four-lane, divided highway with turn lanes, sidewalk, multipurpose trail, retaining walls and the enlargement of an existing retention pond. The project will begin in the spring of 2004, the task force report stated.
Tom Wade, executive director at Burke Centre, noted how citizen input played a role in Virginia Department of Transportation projects.
South County School
Through an array of county funding and private construction methods, ground was finally broken for the South County High School. The land the school is being built on was former Lorton Prison land. Plans call for a middle school to be built on that site sometime in the future. Initially, the school will open in 2005, for middle- and high-school students in the Fairfax Station-Lorton area. Until the school opens, students in this area of the county will continue to be bused to Hayfield Secondary School.
Although contracts were awarded for the South County High School project in April, the Fairfax County School Board passed a Change Order to Predevelopment Services Contract on May 8, for an additional $445,980.
The increase covered "the realignment of the original connector road" and "the enlargement of the connector road from the school site to Hooes Road," linking Hooes and Silverbrook.
After a year of near-record rainfall, with nearly seven inches falling in September alone, county officials watched the situation carefully. It was determined in early November that the schedule was on the brink of delays to meet the 2005 opening date. Construction crews were working weekends and evenings to push on with the work.
Liz Bradsher is a local advocate behind the new school, as well as a parent whose children will benefit when it opens.
"They're still on schedule. There's a financial incentive on the side of the primary contractor to finish on time," she said, though a ceremonial beam-signing event was canceled because of rain.
Fairfax County Parkway Completion
Transportation in the southern part of Fairfax County will be improved in coming months with several road projects that have been given the green light by the Virginia Department of Transportation. Fullerton Road was recently connected to Rolling Road, and construction for the Fairfax County Parkway route through the U.S. Army Engineer Proving Ground (EPG) is about to break ground, eliminating the current detour onto Backlick Road.
On March 20, VDOT awarded a $966,235 contract for "safety improvements at the intersection of Rolling and Fullerton roads," and the road was officially opened on Nov. 21.
According to VDOT, the road will be realigned partially through the current McDonald's parking lot, connecting with Rolling Road. This will create a thoroughfare to the Fullerton Industrial Park and an access to I-95 for cars heading south on Rolling Road.
The 2-mile segment of the Fairfax County Parkway going around the EPG will be advertised in 2006 but won't built until 2007, county planners admitted in October. VDOT project manager Tom Folse examined plans in a meeting with Supervisor Elaine McConnell (R-Springfield), who has been backing the completion for years.
"That's been going a long time," McConnell said at the meeting.
The plans Folse discussed said the remaining segment of the parkway, going from the Fairfax County Parkway's intersection with Rolling Road through the EPG to the existing parkway, will be three lanes and incorporate six bridges. The project will cost between $90 million and $95 million. Funds are already set aside for the project.
VRE Parking Improvements
In early October, Virginia Railway Express (VRE) and county officials were meeting with Burke residents to come up with solutions to the parking problem at the Burke Centre VRE station. Another parking garage was proposed, but determining a location for the lot remains a factor. One suggestion was to put it where the current wetland area is and relocate the wetland, but that is not possible, according to a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers document.
One remedy to the parking situation was the incorporation of a subscription bus service, the "EZ Bus" system. This is a free bus system that picks up and drops off at selected locations around Burke Centre. Supervisor Sharon Bulova (D-Braddock) backed the bus service. If it's successful, she said that it could be used elsewhere in the area.
Open Classroom Concept Ends
With its renovation completed, Orange Hunt Elementary has abandoned one utopian-concept in favor of something old-fashioned — classrooms with doors.
"I like it with closed classrooms," said Jackie Bruhn, 12, a former sixth-grader who experienced both open and closed classrooms at Orange Hunt.
"You don't get distracted," Jackie said. "The other ones, it echoed and carried."
Sue Fourney's 10-year-old daughter Amy is an Orange Hunt student as well. At Back-to-School Night last year, it was apparent that noise was a factor with the open classrooms.
"Back-to-School Night, the teacher was explaining to us and we'd be straining to hear her," Fourney said.
Fairfax County Public Schools engineer Mike Eckhoff was involved in the 20-25 schools that have been renovated. The utopian concept was a product of the free-thinking, communal era in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
"It basically came from the West Coast," Eckhoff said. "A lot of them have been closed."
Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) superintendent Daniel Domenech attended the renovation completion ceremony at Orange Hunt on Friday, March 14.
Under the neon lights, gas pumps and sandwich counter at the Davis Store in Fairfax Station, a country store and hitching post remain from days gone by. Years of zoning fights and rulings have led to the latest decision by the Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA). The store, owned by Donald E. Crump, will remain zoned as a retail/general store instead of a gas station.
Twenty-two witnesses testified to get the zoning designation changed at the BZA hearing Tuesday, March 18.
Braddock District residents took on the role of transportation planners, voicing opinions and strategies as a group, to alleviate their transportation woes.
Supervisor Bulova spearheaded the effort by hosting a series of 10 discussion groups titled "Community Dialogue on Transportation and Land Use." The meetings addressed the issues over the spring and came up with some concrete steps to be addressed. Although the solutions aren't funded or part of the county's comprehensive plan, Bulova did plan on bringing them to the attention of the Board of Supervisors, the legislators, Richmond and beyond.
At the end of Oak Leather Drive in Burke near the Summit Oaks community, a burned-out house, which was the site of trespassing on several occasions, will soon be the site of eight townhouses for the physically disabled.
"Half the units would be constructed to accommodate to whatever their disability is. That's what they're committed to. We're convinced there is a market," Bulova said in October.
Burke Centre RV Parking
A designated parking lot in Burke Centre for residents' recreational vehicles (RV) and boats closed in September, due to the lot's proximity to the Sideburn Branch creek. Burke Centre Conservancy parked its maintenance vehicles on one side of the maintenance building on Roberts Parkway. Due to the wetlands rules, the Conservancy was required to landscape that area. In turn, the Conservancy needed the RV lot to park its trucks, so residents had to move their RVs and boats elsewhere.