Heavy equipment continues to operate on the Corbin Property, but that activity may soon stop on the property located at the corner of Gallows and Idlywood Roads.
In 2003, the 7.7-acre property, which is also know as the "Goat Farm," was rezoned to allow two houses per acre in a cluster development. Clustering allows the same number of houses — in this case 14 — to be built on smaller lots than would normally be permitted in order to preserve environmental features.
The environmental features to be preserved on the Goat Farm were two separate stands of trees. Some of the trees that were to have been saved have been cut down.
The number of trees that have been removed is so high that Barbara Byron, director of the Fairfax County Department of Planning and Zoning has found that the developer, John Batal, is no longer in "substantial conformance" with the terms of the rezoning.
In a Jan. 24 memo to Supervisor Linda Smyth (D-Providence), Byron wrote: "there were no other environmental features on the site worthy of preservation that could justify a cluster development, except for the trees."
Byron later pointed to a 28-percent decrease in the area that had been designated for tree preservation, and that the damage done to the roots of trees that are still standing may result in future tree loss exceeding the 28 percent figure.
These findings, Byron wrote, make the cluster untenable. "The rezoning for the cluster development was based on those commitments and the expectation that mature quality trees, as well as others would be preserved. Without such commitments, it is unlikely that the developer could have justified approval of a cluster development," the memo said.
The remedy, Byron suggested, remains with the Board of Supervisors. "It is apparent that legislative action of the Board of Supervisors must be secured by the property owner in order to rectify this situation," Byron wrote.
The question is now what form that action will take. A stop work order has not been issued, upsetting at least one neighbor. "I find it a little perplexing that a week after the ruling has been issued, the work continues on the site unabated," said Mike Cavin. Cavin, who lives near the site, has been involved in the rezoning of the Goat Farm from the beginning of the process.
SMYTH SAID that no further permits will be issued, but a violation will be. "[The Department of Planning and] Zoning is putting together their letter of violation," Smyth said. Work will be permitted to continue on the facets of the development which have been authorized, no further work will be.
So far, a permit has been issued for the subdivision construction plan, said Linda Capo, chief of the Site Permits and Address Center. This permit, granted on Sept. 10, 2004, will allow the preparation of the various housing sites, and installation of sewer mains, streets, sidewalks, curb and gutter and storm drainage.
Another permit has been issued to "cap off" or disconnect the sewer service to the existing house. The permit to demolish the house has been applied for, but it has not yet been issued.
In spite of the lack of conformance, the zoning will stand. "We cannot rescind the zoning," Smyth said. Under state law, only a few circumstances exist in which a zoning can be taken back, and this does not qualify, she said.
What the county can do is have Batal apply for a "Proffer Condition Amendment," Smyth said. "The idea is that they have to come back," she said. The process will require a public hearing before both the Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors.
Batal did not return the Connection's calls for comment.