How many trees will there be at Nottoway Park? The Park Authority plan to cut down about two acres of trees to make room for a soccer field was put on hold by the Planning Commission at a public hearing on May 19.
The planning process for Nottoway began in November 2002 and included a regional maintenance facility which would have come at the expense of some trees. Area residents protested the loss of the trees and were successful in deflecting the facility.
A public hearing addressing draft plan took place in June 2004. A final draft master plan was released a few weeks prior to the December meeting of the Park Authority Board. The new plan called for cutting down about two acres of trees to make room for a rectangular (soccer or lacrosse) field. It also included a 6.75-acre area in the southwest corner as a wooded area.
That plan was not available for formal public comment prior to the Park Authority’s adoption of it. However, residents were free to submit written comments which would have been circulated, said Kirk Holley of the Park Authority.
During the December meeting, Park Authority Board Member Joanne Malone (Providence) noted that a deficit of fields exists in the area, and that adding one at Nottoway could help to relieve that debt.
She also noted the possible sale of Blake Lane Park, currently owned by Fairfax County Public Schools, which would cause the loss of several fields. Both Supervisor Linda Smyth (D-Providence) and Board of Supervisors Chair Gerry Connolly (D) have stated that they are opposed to any sale of the property.
Several residents complained about the lack of opportunity for comment. But generally, they focused on the way that they say the tree removal will alter the character of the park. The planning commission cannot rule about Park Authority procedures, but can deny the proposal if it believe the proposal will be out of character. "The plan dramatically changes the character of the park," said Julie Appleby, a member of Friends of Nottoway.
Planning Commissioner Janet Hall (Mason) questioned the premise that the character would be dramatically changed. "What they’re proposing to do is add a field in the general location of other fields," she said.
Others decried the procedure which they said pits different park users against each other, in this case, hikers and soccer players. "The only way to give one user group something is to take something away from another," said Vivian Morgan-Mendez of Friends of Nottoway. The friends group is generally supportive of the new plan, with the exception of the new field.
Terry Lash of Vienna Youth Soccer said that his group believes the plan is a good one, but that they are willing to work with neighbors and others in the community to improve it.
After the public hearing, Hall noted that removing trees may contribute to a change in the character of the park. Holley said the Park Authority does not believe that it would constitute a character change.
Hall also questioned how the Park Authority was able to add the field without properly advertising the plan. "I really want to understand how the parks can put forward the plan for a maintenance facility and get a soccer field," she said.
Commissioner James Hart (At Large) echoed her comments. "We try to change things all the time, and we’re told [by the county attorney], ‘that’s outside the scope of the advertising,’" he said.
Planing Commissioner Ken Lawrence (Providence) deferred the decision about the plan until Wednesday, June 15. The record for written and electronic comments will remain open, and any comments will be forwarded along to the Park Authority, Lawrence said.
Comments may be sent to the Fairfax County Planning Commission, 12000 Government Center Parkway, Suite 330, Fairfax, VA 22035 or email@example.com.