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Conservation Awards Recognize Developers

Winners take extra precautions to protect resources, improve land conditions.

It’s not easy being, or thinking, green. But for those in the development business, it’s even harder, having to take streams, soil conservation and trees into consideration during the entire building process.

For that reason, the Fairfax County Department of Public Works and Environmental Services, along with the Northern Virginia Soil and Water Conservation District and Fairfax County Tree Commission, handed out the 2004 Land Conservation Awards to honor Excellence in Environmental Concern to those who went above and beyond the needs of Mother Nature.

The awards, now in their 25th year, recognize those in the contracting and development industries who take extra precautions and modify plans countless times in order to preserve or create green space, avoid cutting trees and work to make their impact on nature as minimal as possible.

“On our Board of Supervisors, we adopted a comprehensive 20-year vision for the county that addresses every aspect of the environment,” said chairman of the Board of Supervisors Gerald Connolly (D-At-large). “This plan is going to be driving our policies for the next 20 years for the first time ever. What we’re doing today is so important,” he said.

CURRENTLY, the county has 3,100 ongoing construction projects, he said, some of which include trying to “retrofit some existing development, which is difficult and expensive but it’s undoing something that hindsight shows were damaging” to the environment, Connolly said.

In addition, developers have to comply with an ever-growing list of regulations, in part demanded by the Chesapeake Bay Ordinances for the conservation of the bay. “These awards are a way to highlight those that are helping our efforts,” he said.

“When Fairfax County started to grow in the 1980s, the conflict between conservation and construction grew, but it made our industry better and helped our quality of life,” said Dave Speed, president of the Heavy Construction Contractors Association. “In the 1990s, the federal government enforced more rules and regulations on wetlands so developers couldn’t develop them. Contractors still have environmental challenges but we’re all working together to face conflicts,” he said.

“The whole industry must work with local experts to make projects possible,” he said.

Jean Packard, chairman of the Northern Virginia Soil and Water Conservation District, applauded the work of contractors and developers for the quality of erosion and sediment controls over the past 60 years.

“The vision is for clean streams and protected natural resources,” she said. “Keep up the good work. We’re counting on you to meet the county’s vision.”

THE AWARDS were created to “identify and award players in the construction industry who have gone to great lengths to practice conservation and to encourage others to do the same,” said Willie Woode, senior conservation specialist with the Northern Virginia Soil and Water Conservation District. The awards are now given out twice a year, in the spring and in the fall, to allow the county to reward more companies doing their part to protect the environment.

In total, eight awards were given out in the erosion and sediment control categories. The award went to Zion Neighborhoods/Stanley Martin Companies for their work on the Reserve at Martin’s Point project, a 17.25-acre project in the Braddock District involving 41 lots of homes, in the large single-family residential category.

“This site featured highly irritable trees and sediment basin and the developers had to attempt to protect the resource protection area (RPA, implemented in the Chesapeake Bay Ordinance) through the use of silt fences,” said Craig Carinci director of the Environmental and Facilities Inspection Division.

In the large commercial category, the Inova Fairfax Hospital, Phase II, Parking Garage developed in the Providence District by Inova Healthcare Services was selected for the 15.53-acre construction project.

“There were some upper ground water issues while excavating the land,” Carinci said. “In proximity to the construction site to established areas allowed Inova to create a traffic protection area and tree protection for areas that were not disturbed by the project,” he said.

The Fairfax County Department of Public Works and Environmental Services was awarded in the small commercial category for its construction of the Fairfax Center Fire Station in the Springfield District, a 6.3-acre project on one lot.

The Pohick Trunk Line Upgrade, developed by the Fairfax County DPWES as well, received the award for special project-linear development.

“The installation of the trunk line in the Pohick Valley, which crossed the water channel four times, was a tricky project,” Carinci said.

Todd Barton received the outstanding site superintendent award for the Reserve at Martin’s Point project.

“We demolished 14 houses and built 42 single family homes on 18 acres of open space,” Barton said. His construction team went to special lengths to make smallest possible area of water runoff by making the sediment basin larger than it needed to be, an effort made possible by the collaboration of Stanley Martin engineers working with county inspectors and officials, he said.

The extra precautions caused some delay in the work and raised costs slightly, but Barton said it was worth the extra work.

“This (award) is very important and very satisfying,” he said. “We do try to go the extra mile because if there are problems that arise on the site, we know that we’ve made every effort to minimize the problems and we can point that out to anyone who asks.”

Patten, Harris, Rust and Associates received the Outstanding Engineering Firm award for their work on the Fairfax Center Fire Station project, while Tom Newman of Patriot Development Corporation won the outstanding engineering contractor award for his work on the Reserve at Martin’s Point development.

Ed Ballard and Leslie Setliff were named environmental and facilities inspectors of the year.

AWARDS WERE ALSO given out to those contractors and projects that took extra care in tree conservation.

“The developers we reward today have taken on a new role of being environmental stewards for the enjoyment of future generations,” said Michael McMahon, Fairfax County Tree Commission chairman.

“In my personal ideal of the urban forest, people would be punished for cutting trees, it would be illegal,” said Phyllis Wilson, urban forester in Fairfax County. “Those who plant trees would be given tax credits and sainthood. That’s why we’re giving out our version of sainthood today.”

Thanks to the efforts of the conservation-minded developers, Fairfax County’s trees produce approximately 100 tons of oxygen every year and remove 40 tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, she said.

The winners of the Tree Preservation Awards were: the Prosperity Professional Center in the Providence District; the Cafferty at Poplar Run project in the Mason District; the Huntsman Residence in the Sully District; the Governor’s Grove Section I project in the Lee District; and the Discovery Square project in the Hunter Mill District.

“This is the first time we’ve given an award to a private residence,” Wilson said of the Huntsman Residence. “The home was designed to maximize tree preservation, and from an aerial photograph, it looks like the house was dropped by helicopter and nestled among the trees. We’re so proud of this work,” she said.

Director of the DPWES Jimmie D. Jenkins reminded those at the ceremony that “we all have a lot to be proud of. The award winners have done a great job conserving resources in the county.”

“It’s important to recognize the great work occurring in the field,” Carinci said. “Too often we hear negativity (about development) but it’s good to recognize the work going into these projects.”