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Bank Receives Board Approval

Several steps remain before construction on Appalachian Outfitters site begins.

Chevy Chase Bank cleared one hurdle, but there are still several more before a new bank can be constructed on the site of Appalachian Outfitters. The Board of Supervisors approved a special exception that will allow Chevy Chase Bank to build a new branch at the corner of Hunter Mill and Chain Bridge roads, where the decaying Appalachian Outfitters building sits.

The triangular-shaped lot will accommodate the bank and a few parking spaces as well as two drive-through ATMs. During the March 3 Planning Commission hearing, the drive-through lanes were put forward as a potential problem for traffic stacking up and spilling out onto Chain Bridge Road.

A condition has been added to the Special Exception which states that if traffic becomes a problem, the bank will only be permitted to use one of the lanes until the issue is resolved.

Another problem brought up at the Planning Commission was the potential for bank customers to exit and attempt to make a left turn onto Hunter Mill Road at what is already a congested intersection. Supervisor Linda Smyth (D-Providence) added a condition to the approvals which will require the bank to post a "No Left Turn" sign at the exit.

Smyth also brought up an engineering study the bank is currently doing to analyze the possibility of putting in a sidewalk along Hunter Mill Road from the bank to the proposed Oakton Community Park.

Robert Flinn, attorney for the bank said that the study should be complete by the end of the week.

THE BOARD of Supervisors' approval, however, is only one piece of the puzzle. Also on the site is the Oakton Schoolhouse, a circa 1890s building that Appalachian Outfitters was built around. As a result of the structure, the bank, as a federally chartered institution, must first complete a "106 review" named after a section of the National Historic Preservation Act.

The review is under way and should be completed within a few months. Chevy Chase Bank would have the right to demolish the schoolhouse, regardless of the findings of the review. However, bank representatives have repeatedly stated that it has no desire to do so.

Nor does Chevy Chase Bank have room on the site for the schoolhouse. As a result, a group called Friends of the Oakton Schoolhouse has been raising funds to move the park to another location. The spot they have identified is what has come to be called the Oakton Community Park (formerly called Corbalis Park) an as-yet unbuilt park about a quarter mile north along Hunter Mill Road. [see related story page XX].

The group has raised nearly $500,000 in pledges, said Bob Adams, president of the friends group. "These only exist if the Oakton Schoolhouse is moved to the Oakton Community Park," Adams said. "There are no other options."

The funds would enable the park to be operational several years earlier than if Fairfax County had to provide the funding. Chevy Chase Bank is contributing $100,000, Vienna Lacrosse and Vienna Youth Soccer are each contributing $20,000, and West Group is also making a major contribution, Adams said. The funds donated by West Group will likely be counted against proffers made on other developments in the Providence District.

Before the schoolhouse can be moved, the Fairfax County Park Authority would need to approve the Master Plan for the new park. The public comment period on the master plan ends on Friday, April 29, then the Park Authority Board will make its decision, and the entire plan will still need to go to the Planning Commission.

"We’re going to see about getting the schoolhouse moved to the park," Smyth said.