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Hollin Hall Village Debates Storm Drainage

Infill development focuses on McWater rather than McMansion.

Members of the Hollin Halls Village Civic Association and representatives of Fairfax County's Department of Public Works and Environmental Services literally faced off December 13 at the Mount Vernon Government Center with Mount Vernon District Supervisor Gerald Hyland in the role of referee. Like many such bouts, in the end it was a draw.

Seated across a long conference table from one another with Hyland at the head, each side accused the other of ignorance of the facts. The prime subject was the impact of infill development on storm water runoff in the community of 1940's homes.

It was the latest round in a bout that has been ongoing for nearly two years over the sale of lots to a developer who plans to put two homes where there has traditionally been only one. The problem stems from the fact that when many of the homes were initially constructed the original owners purchased two adjoining lots and built their homes over the center dividing line.

However, the lots remained on Fairfax County records as two lots. This made them very attractive to developers who saw the chance to purchase one home, raze it, and build two new homes -- one on each lot.

One such developer, J.D. Long and Associates, in cooperation with R.C. Fields and Associates, has purchased 11 such properties in Hollin Hall Village and have commenced demolition and reconfiguration of several properties. Originally this brought forth complaints from long-time residents that it would adversely impact both the character and density of the area.

Throughout a series of meetings, certain members of the association maintained that the dual lots had, in effect, been resubdivided de facto into a single lot by the fact that they had been treated as one since the 1940's. However, the court did not sustain that point of view.

LAST YEAR, at one of the initial meetings between Hyland and the association he stated, "There is no issue more contentious than this. I would like to find a way for us to fix it." In that vein Hyland had introduced a Board Matter at a Fairfax County Board of Supervisors meeting proposing a zoning ordinance prohibiting "the replacement of one single-family home constructed on two contiguous lots with two single family homes, one on each lot."

His explanation for that Board Matter was, "I am concerned that this type of development can adversely impact the character of our existing neighborhoods, worsen existing storm drainage problems, and increase the burden on our transportation network and schools."

Hyland offered residents the opportunity to remove or greatly reduce the County fee to have the lots resubdivided into single lots. This would make them less attractive to potential developers because it would allow only one home to replace an existing home.

However, it could also reduce their speculative value to the owners. For this reason, Hyland placed a caveat on his proposal to seek a reduction in County subdivision fees.

He insisted upon a "super majority" of the impacted property owners to approve his action. "Clearly, this has an impact on any of you who has a house on two lots. It will prevent you from selling the property as two lots and could, therefore, adversely impact your income from the property or its future use," Hyland told the homeowners.

The "super majority" never materialized and the resubdivision never took place. Therefore, acquisition by the development company moved forward and demolition of existing homes they had purchased began shortly after the civic association meeting.

AS HYLAND STATED in his Board Matter one of his concerns with the increased development in Hollin Hall Village was the worsening of "existing storm drainage problems." That concern was the focus of the December 13 meeting on the part of both Hyland and Hollin Hall Village residents.

Hyland's prime concern at last Wednesday's meeting was the fact that the County Department of Public Works and Environmental Services (DPW&ES) was moving ahead with the Public Improvement Plan (PIP) for Hollin Hall Village based "on the assumption that the existing drainage area is adequate to handle the storm water outfall of new residential construction." He, and the residents believe that it is not.

In a letter to Jimmie Jenkins, director, DPW&ES, dated December 13, Hyland stated, "I do not believe that all Public Facility Manual (PFM) standards have been demonstrated by the applicant (J.D. Long) to Fairfax County DPW&ES, and most importantly, to the residents of

Hollin Hall Village who will be directly impacted by the plan."

Hyland further noted that "if every lot in Hollin Hall were to be redeveloped to the intensity permitted under the Zoning Ordinance ... than this plan must be able to handle that increase in storm water outfall." He maintained that J.D. Long intends "to double the housing density" and until that fact is taken into consideration, the plan "must be disapproved."

At the commencement of last Wednesday's meeting Highland asked the ultimate question of what will happen when the new homes are built and the storm water runoff is increased exponentially.

In answer to both Highland's and the community's questions, Jerry Stenciled, environmental specialist, DPW&ES, pointed out, "It (the PIP) is not a site plan or rezoning plan. They (the lots) are not be resubdivided." Therefore, the PIP does not have to take that into consideration, according to Stonefield.

Cathleen Voorhees, a home owner in Hollin Hall Village, and attorney who argued the case that the lots had been de facto resubdivided, maintained that opinion once again. This was rejected by the County officials.

Under the developers proposed plan both the out fall piping and road side ditches will be increased for more volume. The ultimate threat occurs in overloading the stream that flows through Hollin Hall Village.

According to the County staff, "The developer's plan meets all the requirements and must be approved." The developer is also paying for all the improvements removing any need for taxpayer dollars.

County staff admitted, "You can get the water out of the neighborhood but it has no place to go." But, they also admitted that there is not enough drainage in the neighborhood presently regardless of new development.

It was finally decided that if the community can categorically demonstrate incidents of past structural flooding in the area DPW&ES will take a second look at the plan. However, County staff emphasized that the developer could go to court and have the plan approved. "The plan meets all state and county requirements," staff said.