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Once Around the Park

Task Force takes a bus tour around Bachman Farm and other areas.

How often, really, do demonstrators line the roads on a hot, hot day in a land use case? On July 26, demonstrators were out protesting against a possible increase in density in their neighborhood.

A citizen task force is studying the possibility of increasing density in an area around Hunter Mill and Sunset Hills roads. The group of 20 task force members took a bus tour of the area last week, guided by members of the county’s Department of Planning and Zoning.

The study grew out of a proposal made by a group of landowners in the area to increase the allowable density. The area, much of which is owned by Vienna-area resident John Thoburn, encompasses the undeveloped Bachman Farm and the essentially undeveloped Golf Park at Hunter Mill driving range. The Fairfax County Comprehensive Plan allows the property to be developed at a density of one house per two acres.

The low density area was established to act as a buffer between Reston and Tysons Corner, to stop those more urban areas from creeping toward each other.

During the county’s review of the Comprehensive Plan that took place over the last year, some property owners suggested allowing the area to develop at a density of three to four houses per acre with an option to increase that number to five to eight houses per acre.

The increased density, they say, is called for because the area is relatively close to the proposed Wiehle Avenue Metro Station. County development guidelines allow for increased density within a half-mile of a Metro stop — when done properly, this is called Transit Oriented Development. The closest point of the study area is more than half a mile from the proposed stop.

Supervisors Cathy Hudgins (D-Hunter Mill) and Joan DuBois (R-Dranesville) convened the task force to study the area, including some areas (such as the Equestrian Park subdivision which is the closest part of the area to the station) which had not been part of the proposals. The study area encompasses 314 acres south of Lake Fairfax Park and North of the Toll Road.

THE TASK FORCE began meeting in June and has had three meetings before the bus tour. Each of those meetings has taken place in a different, successively smaller room. None of the meetings has offered an opportunity for public comment, although the task force has yet to discuss the substance of the issue. Residents, some who live on the land in question, decided to take the opportunity to comment.

Along the bus route, signs dotted the roadside proclaiming things like “Maintain Our Tranquil Neighborhood,” “Keep the Plan,” and “If we can’t save our neighborhoods can you save yours?” Some sat alone but in several places groups of people gathered, drawing attention to their signs.

Besides entering the neighborhoods being studied, the tour drove to surrounding attractions such as Lake Fairfax Park (home to the Water Mine), some nearby business areas and the Reston Zoo.

The next meeting of the Task Force is scheduled for Tuesday, Aug. 9, at 7 p.m. in the cafeteria of Lake Anne Elementary School. The following meeting will be Wednesday, Aug. 24 at the same time and place.