Last Thursday's public information meeting on the Salona Conservation Easement was perhaps one of the most uncontroversial public meetings in McLean's recent history.
"Wow. That was easy," exclaimed Dranesville District Supervisor Joan DuBois at the end of the question/answer period.
DuBois held the meeting in the McLean Community Center, and while it was well-attended, it seemed clear that McLean residents are generally happy with the plans for the Salona site.
The Salona property, located at 1235 Dolley Madison Blvd., is owned by Dan DuVal and his family. Rather than sell to developers, DuVal decided to allow the Fairfax County Park Authority (FCPA) and the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors to purchase the conservation easement for $16 million, which is less than half the appraised value of the property. Two rectangular fields, a playground, a picnic area and trails are all planned for the 41-acre property. The DuVal family will retain approximately 10 acres for its own private use.
"It's been a long process, but I think a very productive one," said DuVal at Thursday's meeting. "I am pleased with the results, my family is pleased with the results and I hope you are too."
Whit Field, a representative from the Northern Virginia Conservation Trust commended the County and the DuVal family for coming to an agreement on the property.
"We can't say enough great things about the County and the DuVals," said Field.
Field referred to the conservation easement as a "special tool" because it "allows land to stay in private ownership but be used for certain public purposes."
"It is a gift from the DuVals to the community," said Field.
Sherry Frear, a landscape architect with the FCPA, presented the park conceptual plan at the meeting. According to her, the two rectangular fields will be appropriate for soccer, lacrosse, field hockey and football use. No lights or artificial turf are planned for either field.
FCPA director Michael Kane confirmed that the Department of Community Recreation Services (CRS) will determine the precise usage of the fields.
WHEN QUESTIONED ABOUT TRAFFIC CONCERNS at the intersection of Buchanan Street and Kurtz Road, Frear said that VDOT will be conducting a study to determine whether or not a traffic light is needed at the site.
"Traffic improvements will happen in consultation with VDOT," said Frear.
Salona II resident Wilma Bowers says she and many of her neighbors already feel that the Buchanan Kurtz intersection requires a traffic light, and that the added traffic brought in by the Salona site and the nearby church will only intensify that need.
"I am thrilled with how the property is going to be used, but there are a lot of us who feel that a light should be used ... there are times during rush hour today — without this [site] — that you can wait up to 10 minutes to cross that intersection, and that might not show up in a traffic study," said Bowers.
Carmen Bailey has lived in Salona Village for the past four years, and she agrees that even without the Salona recreation area, it is dangerous to make a left turn from Buchanan on to Dolley Madison Blvd.
"From my own personal experience, you have to race and then break immediately, watching the front and back of your car, hoping no one hits you," said Bailey. "VDOT's measurements can't take into account the safety factor. As the traffic increases with the church growth as well as the ball fields, there will be a very large safety issue."
Supervisor DuBois says that she feels it will be "very likely that a signal will have to go there."
"I'm sure that it will be looked at very, very carefully," said DuBois.
One resident asked about the possibility of incorporating a dog park into the site, but DuVal and FCPA representatives confirmed that this would not happen. Equestrian facilities were also brought up at Thursday's meeting, but no such facilities are included in the Salona conceptual plan.
"Equestrian use would be allowed [on the trails]," said FCPA director Michael Kane. "There won't be specific horse trailer parking, but it wouldn't be not allowed either."