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Road Plan Whittled Down For Parkway Completion

For Presidential Hills resident Beth Land, it was classic bait-and-switch. The builders of Presidential Hills required buyers to sign a paper acknowledging that Rose Garden Lane may be extended in the future, but it was the Fairfax County Parkway extension that will affect the community.

To Bob Pease, another resident in Presidential Hills, it was the lack of communications between the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT); Fairfax County; Centex, the builders; and the home buyers.

"It's inexcusable. Presidential Hills wasn't notified. They should have some type of system where VDOT, builders and the county are aware," Pease said.

Neal Schiff of Summit Walk worried about emergency vehicles having access to his community, which is on the western side of Rolling Road. In the initial plan, emergency vehicles would have to go south of his neighborhood to gain access.

"More importantly we don't have regress or egress for emergency vehicles," Schiff said.

To Steve Edwards, transportation administrator in Supervisor Elaine McConnell's (R-Springfield) office, it was bad timing. According to his time line, the initial VDOT plans were submitted for the 1.5-mile Parkway segment through the Engineer Proving Grounds (EPG), while the plans for Presidential Hills were going through the approval process, so technically, the neighborhood did not exist.

According to a time line in McConnell's office, Presidential Hills applied to be rezoned from R-1 to R-2 on Nov. 2, 1998, followed by a community meeting on March 25, 1999. Then on March 31, 2000, the Fairfax County Planning Commission received the application for Presidential Hills but did not decide until June 22, 2000. During that period, on April 26, 2000, VDOT had a meeting about the final stretch of the Parkway through the EPG.

"Presidential Hills did not exist. The developers should be aware of any highway expansions that are going to occur near their properties," Edwards said.

Del. Dave Albo (R-42nd) puts the blame on the real-estate agents and home buyers.

"They're [real-estate agents] going to know things about purchasing a house that the average Joe isn't going to know. That's why you hire professionals," Albo said.

Wherever the blame lies, officials are hoping the whole thing gets solved at a closed meeting on Jan. 21 attended only by the Design Review Task Force, consisting of McConnell, Gerry Hyland (D-Mount Vernon), Albo, VDOT, and two representatives from the neighborhoods that are most affected, although all parties realize that coming up with a plan where everyone will be totally happy will be almost impossible.

"Mitigate the impact," was the goal, according to Edwards.

In the plan, which VDOT calls "RRR-2," the Fairfax County Parkway will continue along the path of the existing Rolling Road, through the EPG, and reconnect with the parkway near the Fullerton Industrial Park. It will require the U.S. Army to transfer the land. Lots of trees would have to be cut down, several VDOT bridges put in and at least one business relocated. The money is already allocated for the project, which is expected to start in 2007 or 2008. A segment of Hooes Road perpendicular to the parkway will be widened as well.

Tom Folse, VDOT project manager, was trying to appease everyone with RRR-2 but realized it's not an easy task. Folse's efforts were praised by McConnell's office as well as Albo.

"At the last meeting [mid-December], we came up with a plan that almost everyone liked. I'm hoping to come up with some agreement," Folse said.

Neighborhoods most concerned with the project are Barkers Village, Summit Walk, Bethelem Woods, Donegal Oaks, Spring Woods, and Presidential Hills, which is the newcomer to the group. According to Land, Presidential Hills is being treated like the new rich kid on the block. All but a section of affordable houses in the corner of the community are high-dollar houses.

"The original plan would have had Rolling Road right behind that shed with sound barriers," Beth Land said, pointing to a wooded area behind the few affordable houses in the neighborhood. She wasn't happy with McConnell's response at past meetings.

"VDOT can listen, not McConnell. She wants the connection before she goes out of office," Land said.

As the community is right now, the section of affordable townhouses is located in the corner of the neighborhood against a wooded area. It is a quiet area and a prime spot for the developer to put an expensive home if there wasn't previous knowledge of the parkway expanding right behind the houses, Pease said. He questioned why that location.

"What builder puts its best lot as affordable housing? It raises questions," he said.

Pease is one of the Presidential Hills representatives going to the meeting.

"I am hopeful," he said.

New neighborhoods conflicting with planned roads is nothing new to Folse. He remembered a similar situation with the Fairfax County Parkway being completed near Sunset Hills Road in Reston.

"In some ways it was a similar situation," Folse said. "In the end, we seemed to have resolved the complaints."