Last year, developer Brookfield Washington presented a plan to build 20 houses on 11 acres along Ridge Creek Way in Springfield. Neighbors in the Middle Valley subdivision, downhill from the proposed development, came to the July public hearing and said they were concerned about the potential for stormwater to run onto their property.
The plan to manage the stormwater would have involved, among other things, tearing up yards of the existing homeowners, said Planning Commissioner John Byers (Mount Vernon).
"This situation did not sit well with the neighborhood," Byers said during the May 18 Planning Commission meeting.
Last March, the developer came back with a different stormwater management plan and had a new public hearing. At the time, Lynne Strobel, attorney for the developer, said her client would be willing to build either option and left the choice to the Planning Commission.
Neighbors came once again, still fearing that the new development would cause additional runoff that might flood their basements.
Byers, on May 18, made his decision in favor of the second option that includes a large rain garden to absorb some of the water, and a series of trenches to held direct and hold it. "With this revised proposal, Middle Valley should receive even less surface runoff," he said.
He went on to say that the developer has made numerous efforts to accommodate the neighborhood and has amended their proffers almost daily. "This has been like trying to paint a moving train," he said.
Commissioner Laurie Frost Wilson (At-large) disagreed with this option. She said that a rain garden of the size proposed has not before been tried in Fairfax County. "It's basically putting the Middle Valley residents … as a guinea pig," she said, noting that she preferred the first option.
MIDDLE VALLEY Civic Association President Teresa Champion was also concerned about the new proposal, she said in a later interview.
"We don't want to be a test case," she said. She said she has been generally happy with the review the proposal has gotten from Supervisor Gerry Hyland (D-Mount Vernon).
The rain garden proposal involves drains and piping running underground. "These things fail and need maintenance," she said. The new homeowners, she said, might not have enough incentive to maintain the project. If it does fail, the water will run down into her neighborhood, but likely will not have as much of an impact on the new houses.
"You need to be looking at these things on the front end," Champion said.
The Planning Commission approved the plan that uses the rain gardens on a relatively close vote with only five members actually in favor of the proposal. In favor of the plan were Byers and Commissioners Peter Murphy (Springfield), Frank de la Fe (Hunter Mill), Nancy Hopkins (Dranesville) and Rodney Lusk (Lee). Opposed were Wilson and Suzanne Harsel (Braddock). Abstaining were Commissioners Jim Hart (At-large) and Ken Lawrence (Providence). Out of the room were Walter Alcorn (At-large) and Ron Koch (Sully). Janet Hall (Mason) was absent.
The plan is on the June 5 agenda of the Board of Supervisors for another Public Hearing and final decision.