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Historic District Is Moving Forward

By Bonnie Hobbs

For more than a year, a 40-person citizens task force has been working on a plan to expand the boundaries of Centreville's Historic District. And now, with help from Fairfax County staff, the document containing its recommendations is nearly ready to move forward through the county processes.

"You've done a tremendous job, and I thank you all," said Supervisor Michael R. Frey (R-Sully), who's been leading the group. He was addressing a task-force meeting Monday night, during which the draft plan was presented.

Centreville's Historic District is currently 17 acres, and the group proposes adding some 33 acres more to increase it to about 50 acres. The district now consists of 35 separate parcels, and 53 more are proposed for addition.

All contain areas of historical, cultural and/or archaeological significance. And including them in the Historic District would ensure their preservation and require any new development within them to be compatible with the vision the group has for this area that was Centreville's birthplace.

For example, the group seeks to protect and preserve the Apex Fort on Pickwick Road near Sully Manor, the Middle Fort along Wharton Lane and the West Fort next to the intersection of Wharton Lane and Lawrence Mill, as well as a deep, 1,000-foot trench called "The Covered Way."

It comes off Pickwick and runs between Walney Glen and the Summit Street homes. During the Civil War, this trench protected soldiers carrying munitions back and forth between the forts. Preserved, too, would be a 50-foot buffer area and frontage along Wharton, plus a section along Route 29 containing almost half of the original platted Town of Centreville.

THEREFORE, the task force wants the shopping center containing the Fair Lanes bowling alley and Community Bank to become part of the Historic District. That's because that shopping center was part of the original Eagle Tavern parcel which is integral to Centreville's heritage.

In enlarging and better defining the Historic District, the task force hopes to create a family-friendly, commercial focal point that serves as a community attraction, while respecting, honoring and promoting Centreville's heritage.

However, to make it a reality, the Fairfax County zoning ordinance would have to be amended to add any newly encompassed areas into the official Centreville Historic Overlay District. And the county's Comprehensive Plan would also require amending to reflect the changes and overall vision for the Historic District.

County staff is recommending inclusion of the proposed 53 parcels. It also recommends that two structures within the study area — the former Payne's Store at 13848 Lee Highway, now housing Jamie's General Bean, and the Utterback House at 13916 Braddock Road, now a daycare center — be assessed for listing on the county's Inventory of Historic Sites.

Cynthia Chambers, with the county's Zoning Administration Division, explained that the proposed zoning-ordinance amendment would contain a reference to preserving the archaeological quality of the Historic District's structures and landmarks. It's also proposed that auto-oriented and drive-in uses be prohibited throughout the district.

This amendment would also reduce the maximum amount of buildable space on a parcel. In this case, it's recommended that construction only be allowed on one-fourth of a one-acre parcel.

Charlene Fuhrman-Schulz, with the county's Department of Planning and Zoning, said those working on the Comprehensive Plan amendment "identified remnants of the Civil War and said they needed to be preserved and an archaeological survey needs to be done."

"AND ANY [proposed construction] projects that come in will need to be in conformance with Historic District Guidelines and approved by the Fairfax County Architectural Review Board [ARB]," she said. "I'm also proposing that we put in a map so people will know what's in the district."

The amendment also states that stormwater management must be addressed and a coordinated plan achieved where possible. Development proposals should be compatible in terms of architecture, materials, scale and design with the significant historic structures in the district.

Pedestrian linkages to and within the district should be provided, and traffic impacts on the district should be minimized. There's also language pertaining to the preservation of Civil War earthworks on some of the parcels along Summit Street in adjacent Centreville Farms, as well as a provision that development there be architecturally compatible with the Historic District.

During the meeting, Centreville Farms resident Larry Baldwin suggested his own changes to the zoning-ordinance amendment. He said hotels and motels shouldn't be prohibited from the district. "It's an appropriate use, since we had 'taverns' in the olden days," he said.

Baldwin also contended that the amount of buildable area per acre should be increased. And he said the existence of a spring-fed stream in the area should be noted, as well as the future extension of Leland Road to Braddock road.

Baldwin also said the Park Authority's plans for the Mount Gilead area should be listed. And a woman suggested that traffic impacts should also be minimized on areas surrounding the Historic District.

Supervisor Frey noted that two banks and a pharmacy — all with drive-through windows — have already filed applications to build along Route 29 in areas being considered for addition to the district. One would go where the MVC store is at the intersection of Routes 28 and 29.

"THEY'VE AGREED to go before the ARB for approval of their designs," he said. "They put their applications in before this [new] language prohibiting drive-through uses in the Historic District was proposed, so I don't know what we'll do about them."

Meanwhile, Tracy Strunk with county staff said public hearings may be held on the Historic District expansion proposals in October. The Planning Commission is slated to hold a public hearing in March on proposed changes to the Comprehensive Plan pertaining to Summit Street. It's left over from the last Area Plans Review process and is scheduled to go before the Board of Supervisors on May 1.

Regarding the Historic District additions, Linda Cornish Blank with the Department of Planning and Zoning said the ARB and county History Commission "will review the proposals probably in March, comment on them and then make recommendations to the Planning Commission on the zoning-ordinance [amendment]."

The public may make comments about this amendment or the proposed Comprehensive Plan amendment until the end of business on Friday, Feb. 10. Send them to sully@fairfaxcounty.gov.