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Votes

South County Area's Evolution

APR nominations, proposals for the redevelopment of the former prison site will change the look of area.

Reconstruction and redevelopment will play a major role throughout the southern portion of Fairfax County in 2006, as the Area Plans Review process (APR) focuses on nominations for redesigning the county’s Comprehensive Plan. In Lorton, residents are waiting to see what developers have in mind for the future of the former prison site when the Request for Proposals (RFPs) are sent out within the next few months. And the newly-opened South County Secondary School will be over capacity at the start of its second year, causing residents and School Board officials alike to wonder what changes can be made to solve what will become a growing problem.

<sh>APR Nominations

<bt>Every five years, residents and developers in Fairfax County have the opportunity to submit proposals for the Area Plans Review, a state-mandated review of the county's Comprehensive Plan which serves as a guideline for how land is zoned and can be developed. Last year, the APR process addressed the northern portion of the county, putting Springfield, Lorton, Fairfax Station and other portions in the southern half of Fairfax County in the spotlight in 2006.

The Mount Vernon District, of which Lorton is a part, has 37 nominations. The Springfield District, which contains the Fairfax Station and Clifton area, has seven nominations.

Most of the Mount Vernon District nominations are scattered around Richmond Highway in the northern part of the district, near Alexandria. Only four nominations would affect the Lorton area, mainly near Ox Road.

Submitted by Christopher Land, LLC, the first nomination concerns a parcel located north and west of Lorton Road and east of Ox Road. The proposal seeks to consolidate 27 acres, currently zoned for residential use south of the Hollymeade subdivision near the Lorton Workhouse property, and redevelop the area for mixed use, residential and retail space.

A second nomination, submitted by the Mount Vernon Council of Citizens Associations, calls for a traffic study of Hooes Road prior to any construction that would expand the road from two lanes to four lanes, between Silverbrook and Ox roads.

Another nomination from Christopher Land, LLC, seeks to increase the density of residential zoning in the Burke Lake Community Planning Sector from two to three dwelling units per acre to three to four dwelling units per acre. The proposal cites that much of the area surrounding the 13-acre property is zoned for three to four units per acre.

One nomination, submitted by Sun Trust Bank, seeks to increase the industrial zoning in an area of Backlick Road along Route 1 near the CSX Railroad tracks from a Floor Area Ratio of .50 to a .60 FAR, which the proposals states is better in line with the Comprehensive Plan. The property is located near the Lee District boarder, so the nomination may be pulled out of the APR process to be examined by a separate task force.

In the Springfield District, a proposal was submitted by J. Peter Winfield to increase the residential density of eight acres of land located at the intersection of Route 29 and West Ox Road, currently zoned for two dwelling units per acre of land, up to 16 to 20 dwelling units per acre of land. According to the nomination, the increased density would better fit the Comprehensive Plan as most of the properties surrounding the land are developed at the higher density rate.

More information on all of the APR nominations across the southern portion of Fairfax County is available on the county's Web site, at www.fairfaxcounty.gov/dpz/apr.

<sh>Lorton Prison RFPs

<bt>Residents of Lorton also have the added questions of what will happen to the former prison site itself.

In 2005, a historic nomination was adopted by the Board of Supervisors and the Virginia Department of Historic Resources, which established a level of protection around some of the buildings and structures on the former prison site. Residents became concerned, however, that the nomination would restrict the options available to developers who may have been interested in building anything on the site, which had been promised to be a “world class asset” once the county took ownership of the property from the federal government in 2000.

Within the first two months of 2006, the Board of Supervisors is expected to finalize the Request for Proposals plan, which will be released to interested contractors and developers, who can then submit their ideas and bids for new development or adaptive reuse of existing structures on the former prison site.

According to the Memorandum of Agreement signed by the Board of Supervisors and the federal government when the county took ownership of the land, the Board of Supervisors has the final say on any projects that are built on the former prison site. In addition, the historic district that was approved in early December is an honorific distinction, meaning that no additional limitations that were not originally part of the MOA will be implemented on the site.

Those who were in favor of the historic district argued that developers may be eligible for grants and tax credits for reusing some of the former prison structures or submitting proposals for new construction on the site.

It remains to be seen, however, what kinds of projects are proposed by developers. The impact of the historic nomination on the future of Lorton may only be known once the RFPs are released and completed.

<sh>South County Secondary School

<bt>More than 2,000 students entered the South County Secondary School when it opened in September 2005. With a capacity of just over 2,200 students and another 500 students ready to start school there this September, parents who fought for the school are wondering where the extra students will go.

The South County Secondary School currently has students in grades six through 11. In September, the school will add a senior class and new 500 students, currently in fifth graders, will swell the school's ranks.

Along with the overcrowding problem is the question of when the Lorton area will have the funding to build a middle school. The need for a middle school has been made more apparent in the past few months as the enrollment projection for next school year was announced, but the middle school is not projected to begin until 2014, according to the School Board’s Capital Improvement Plan.

Several options exist for addressing the overcrowding, at least in the short term. Trailers could be added to the school to provide extra classrooms. Certain programs could be eliminated or reduced.

The option that has drawn the most criticism from parents, however, is the possibility that boundaries could be re-examined and redrawn. Residents have expressed frustration with the School Board for not being more receptive to their concerns about the rate at which the southern portion of the county is growing, which may have given them more accurate predictions as to the enrollment rate at the school. Some parents have said that if boundaries are redrawn, the middle school project may be delayed or abandoned altogether, making the South County school a secondary school permanently.

<sh>BRAC Impacts

<bt>As many as 20,000 people will be relocating to Fort Belvoir as part of the federal government’s Base Relocation and Closure Commission’s changes of 2005, which means a big impact on the area in and around Fort Belvoir. Where people will live, where they will work, the condition of the infrastructure and any commuting will be under the microscope in 2006, as plans for the future come into focus. How much assistance Fairfax County will receive from the federal government to make improvements to roads, especially Route 1, if any, will continue to be a major concern as the year progresses.

<sh>Woodson Renovations

<bt>In September, bids will go out for the W.T. Woodson High School's first renovations since it was built in 1962. In 2003, voters approved a bond for the renovations.

The deal includes five major additions: a new auditorium, science wing, administrative wing, weight room and locker room. The auditorium, the largest addition, will sit where the main parking lot is now. It will have dressing rooms, a set elevator, a black box theater and a balcony, and will seat 2,300 people.

The new science wing, added to the back of the building, will have 14 rooms. The new science rooms will be larger than the current ones, with laboratory space as well as classroom space.

The renovation also includes standard features such as new lockers, windows, and tiles, as well as refurbished athletic fields and bleachers.