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GFCA Hopes to Protect Historic Structure

GFCA planning committee wants to preserve abandoned house.

In trying to be good stewards of their community, members of the Great Falls Citizens Association’s Planning and Zoning Committee are fighting to protect an old house from being torn down, either by developers or vandals.

A few years ago, a piece of property next to Thelma’s Ice Cream Store on Colvin Run Road was purchased by John Sekas, a developer from Vienna. He had approached the committee about getting a lot width variance for a house he wanted to build on another portion of the lot, which the committee agreed to so long as the house was protected and left standing. He agreed, but later sold the property to Bison Developers, and the house has been neglected.

“The house needs to be saved but it’s deteriorated,” said John Ulfelder, chairman of the committee. “They’re claiming the house is not salvageable.”

“After Mr. Sekas got our support, he came back and said it was unfeasible to keep the house and have someone live in it,” said Karen Washburn, a member of the committee. “We wouldn’t support his bid to tear it down. The house has since transferred hands and the current owner has allowed it to be willfully destroyed.”

The house, built in the late 1800s, has been recognized by Fairfax County as historic and is included in the National Registry of Historic Places, she said, and should be repaired and preserved.

“The problem is the current owner of the house won’t get the money out of it that he wants to get if he resells it now,” Ulfelder said. The only way to get more money is if the house is torn down because the land is worth more than the structure. “We need to stand by our position and stick to the condition we agreed to two years ago.”

“When I noticed the door to the house was open about two months ago I called the Zoning Department to come look at it and put a trespassing notice on the door,” said David Olin, president of the Great Falls Citizens Association. “I locked the door when I left.” He added that Dranesville District Supervisor Joan DuBois has told him she intends to write a letter to the Board of Zoning Appeals to support whatever action the Great Falls Citizen Association plans to take.

“If they want to modify that structure at all, we’ll make sure they go back to the BZA first,” Ulfelder said.

“That house is a good, solid house,” Washburn said. “It’s going to take effort and money but it’s very habitable. It just depends on the profit margin.”

DURING LAST THURSDAY'S meeting, the board also heard a presentation from the Village Green Day School, which hopes to increase the number of students enrolled at the school by 25, from 225 students to 250, and also increase the number of students allowed at the school during the day from 125 to 150, which, will not require any additional staff.

When the school last approached the committee about expansion in 1999, there were concerns over traffic problems when students were picked up or dropped off, blocking access to Columbine Road. This was addressed by the incorporation of staggered arrival and departure times.

“Children are dismissed at 11:45 a.m., noon and 12:15 p.m.,” said Lynne Roots, principal of the school. “They’re being released at intervals which cuts back on the number of cars at one time.”

“I must compliment the school. You don’t see the back-up of cars anymore,” Washburn said.

“The area for drop-off and pick-up is right in front of the doors, but there’s also a parking area for parents who need to stay longer,” said Lynne Simmons, founder and president of the school, who added that despite requests to increase the enrollment, she hopes to keep the school small.

Their proposal will be heard before the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors at their Sept. 1 meeting and at the Planning Commission on Oct. 5, said Tara Wiedeman, legal representative for the school.