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Oakton Park Gets Final Approval

Funding still needed for 10-acre park; history complicates plan.

Oakton took another step toward becoming a place, rather than just a zip code, on Dec. 1 when the Fairfax County Planning Commission granted final approval for Oakton Community Park. Coupled with the coming library and existing shopping, a downtown Oakton is taking shape. “What a great thing you are bringing to Oakton,” said Linda Byrne, a nearby resident.

The Board of Supervisors purchased the 9.8-acre Corbalis Property along Hunter Mill Road in 2001 with an eye toward developing it as a park. The land sits opposite Mystic Meadow Way, near Lewis Knolls Drive. A citizen task force began meeting in 2004 and helped draft the park plan, which calls for a full-size rectangular (soccer) field in the area along Hunter Mill Road that is already generally empty. The existing house and barn will be demolished.

The wooded area farther from Hunter Mill Road will remain untouched, except for the addition of a trail system that will include access to the abutting neighborhoods. The park will have a 50-vehicle parking lot, and a space for an architectural feature, likely the Oakton schoolhouse which currently sits about a half-mile away on the grounds of Appalachian Outfitters.

Some nearby residents expressed concerns about the field. Nan Coleman, of the English Oaks Homeowner’s Association thought the field should be smaller. She pointed out that a soccer field is planned for Nottoway Park and that Lawyers Road Park, currently in the planning process, may also get a field.

“How many rectangular fields do we really need?” she said. A smaller field, she said, would act to limit people over 14 from playing on it.

Planning Commission chair Peter Murphy questioned that rationale. “I think adults need active recreation, too,” he said.

Residents were also concerned about the potential for parking to spill onto the nearby neighborhood streets. “The limited, 50-space parking lot will overflow into the neighborhoods,” Coleman said. Planning Commissioner Ken Lawrence (Providence) suggested that if parking becomes an issue, the residents can apply to require a permit for parking in the neighborhoods.

“I believe the Park Authority … has designed a park which will serve all the possible users,” Lawrence said.

NOW THAT THE park has been approved, it has to be funded, which is proving more difficult than it first seemed. Typically, park construction is accomplished through bond funds, and the Park Authority is not due to sell any bonds for several more years.

Bob Adams, an Oakton resident and member of Friends of the Oakton Schoolhouse, had worked out a deal. He had found some private donors willing to help with the construction of the park. One in particular, developer West Group, was going to pay to move the schoolhouse from its current site to its new home on the park grounds.

A bit of history complicated the deal. The Appalachian Outfitters site, where the school is now, has been purchased by Chevy Chase Bank, which wants to build a bank there. The bank’s development plan was already approved by the Board of Supervisors.

However, since banks are federally-chartered, it must first conduct a “106 review” named after section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act.

The review’s finding surprised many when it determined that not the schoolhouse, but the existing store, with its second-floor porch is historically significant. The state may require a public hearing before anything can be done on the site.

Adams said that the delays are putting some of the funding for moving the schoolhouse and building the park in jeopardy. Some of the donors committed early to helping and have pulled out. While they have been replaced so far, there is still the danger that one may drop out without a replacement, Adams said.