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Votes

Traffic Complicates Park Plan

Park would go on 13.7 acres near Hunter Mill Road

Oakton resident Claude Scott has three words to describe Lawyers Road. "It's twisty. It's narrow. It's hilly."

As a result, Scott says that a park with access from Lawyers Road could be unsafe. As cars wait to make a left turn into the park, other drivers would come over a hill and suddenly find a line of cars. Scott foresees numerous rear-end collisions.

"The Park authority hasn't done plans to see how it could be done," he said during the Nov. 15 meeting of the Fairfax County Planning Commission.

The proposed park would go on about 14 acres on Lawyers Road, a little over a mile east of Hunter Mill Road. The land, undeveloped and currently covered by tulip and pine trees, is owned by Fairfax County schools, but the school system determined they will not need a school in that location.

The Park Authority has a long term lease on the property and began a master planning process for the area with a community meeting in May 2005.

The master plan, which was approved by the Park Authority in April, calls for a soccer field on the site, along with a 70-space parking lot, children's play areas, a trail loop and a picnic area. Nearly seven acres will be left wooded.

The plan is theoretical.

"At this time, there is no source of funding for the development of this park," said Sandy Stallman of the Park Authority. She said that funding could come through developer proffers or bond funds in the future.

Scott and some of his neighbors came to talk about their safety concerns with the traffic.

Kevin McNiff, who, like Scott lives in the development across Lawyers Road, said the soccer field would be the real problem. Soccer games have a specific starting and ending times, meaning many cars would come to and leave from the park during a relatively small time frame, at about the same time another group arrives.

AS A RESULT, McNiff fears that the cars will pile up along Lawyers Road, and recommends deleting the soccer field from plans for the park.

The neighbors also brought up an old plan in the same area. In 1987, an adjacent property had put in a plan for a day care center. But that plan was rejected because the county found it would create hazardous driving conditions.

Commissioners were generally sympathetic to the residents concerns.

"How are you going to avoid that?" said Commissioner John Byers (Mount Vernon) "I can just see big problems."

Chuck Almquist of the county's Department of Transportation said that this situation is different. To truly make the area safe, the hills in the road would need to be flattened, something that would be too large a job to ask of a single property owner, but might be feasible for the Park Authority.

Stallman said that the issue of vehicular access would be more properly addressed later in the development process during site plan review.

David Marshall of the Department of Planning and Zoning agreed. He said that if a school had been built on the property, or if the 13 houses that would be allowed by right were built, those issues would be resolved during the site plan review, a process which does not involve the Planning Commission.

Commissioner Laurie Frost Wilson (at large) asked if the site plan could be brought back to the Planning Commission for further review.

Marshall said that it does happen that site plans are presented to the commission, but he said it is unclear what sort of authority the commission would have to do anything but comment on it.

Commissioner Frank de la Fe (Hunter Mill) asked that commission defer its decision on the park, which is in his district. "I do want to make myself comfortable that the traffic issues have been and will be addressed," he said.

The commission deferred its decision to Nov. 30. The plan is not subject to review by any other public bodies.