Laurel Hill has had its share of cookouts and block parties, but now the Lorton neighborhood is really getting organized.
The community located off Laurel Crest Drive, which will soon be known for being across the street from the new South County Secondary School, voted to elect members for the new Laurel Hill Civic Association at a meeting in mid-March.
"It’s an exciting time to be living here, to live in a community where everything’s new, and to have the opportunity to contribute to the development, to help create community where we’re going to live," said Peter Dickinson, who was elected president of the association.
Built by Pulte and Centex Homes and managed by Armstrong Management, the Laurel Hill community currently contains 450 homes, and will eventually contain 732 single family homes and townhouses. Under county guidelines, the principal developer of a new community has control of the homeowners association until the community is 75 percent occupied. Currently, Laurel Hill is at 62 percent, and should be at 75 percent by the fall.
Until that time, however, the civic association can become active in matters outside Laurel Hill's brick walls.
"I think we have things going on in the community and especially outside of our community. A lot of it is going on right across the street from us, and we don't really have a voice in all of it," said Christine Morin, vice president of the new association. Morin and her family moved to Lorton from Burke in March 2004 for what she saw as "a great opportunity."
She recalls the days when Lorton wasn't such a prestigious address.
"When I was a kid, you weren't allowed to drive on Silverbrook, for fear someone would break loose from the prison," Morin said. "To go to that from where we are today, it's such a change."
THE LHCA will have its first official meeting on Wednesday, April 20, at 7:30 p.m., at the Pulte Sales office off Silverbrook Road, and will continue conducting meetings the third Wednesday of each month, through the summer and fall.
The goal, said Dickinson, is to continue having meetings with south county government and school officials, to have input on decisions which will affect the fledgling community.
"In this case, in its early stages, when the HOA board is controlled by the developer, they’re not going to get involved in those external issues," said Dickinson. "We wanted to have the kind of influence we should have."
In addition to the adaptive reuse issues related to the county-owned property at the former correctional facility and the new South County Secondary School, Dickinson said issues like walking paths and open space are ones that immediately come to mind, as well as working to move up the timetable for construction of a new elementary school to feed the secondary school.
"We’ve been trying to work to improve the life in the community. And it's easier to organize this and accomplish tasks when you create an organization that people are able to join and be a part of," said Dickinson.
The meetings will be open to any Laurel Hill resident, and over 100 people attended the meeting in March to elect officers.
The LHCA will also operate in collaboration with a pair of other south county associations, the South County Federation and the South Springfield Alliance. Both of those groups are para-community organizations that help to unify large communities like Barrington, Crosspointe and Triple Ridge.
Liz Bradsher, a founding member of the South Springfield Alliance, said she welcomes the formation of the LHCA.
"I think it will be positive for the whole south county area. Without them and their growth, we would not have the change that needs to take place down here," said Bradsher. "I think it's great, really proactive, and I think they will be a strong community voice for the changing community that is here."
Dickinson said the officers chose to include a provision in the association bylaws that when the Laurel Hill Homeowners Association is formed, likely in the fall, the civic association will meet to decide whether or not to continue meeting, or to dissolve, and allow both organizations to function together.
"We want to try to bring together one unified organization, so the function the civic association was performing was done by the HOA," said Dickinson. "As best as possible, we want to work through one organization."