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Ideas Wanted

GFCA urges local residents to attend public meeting on proposed design of new fire station in Great Falls.

Members of the Great Falls Citizens Association (GFCA) are hoping to get a big turnout at their Sept. 11 general membership meeting in two weeks.

“We’d like to get as many people as possible so that people feel like they have the chance to see the design and have their opinions heard,” said John Ulfelder, a co-chair of the GFCA Land Use and Zoning committee.

The topic for the meeting will be the proposed design of the much anticipated, new Great Falls Fire Station. Located near the intersection of Georgetown Pike and Walker Road, the original structure was built in the 1960s and needs updates and renovation. Last year, Fairfax County voters approved a $12 million bond that would provide funds for several public service facility improvement projects, including construction of a new fire station in Great Falls.

“It’s going to be a large building — between 18,000 and 19,000 square feet,” said Ulfelder. “To give a comparison, the Post Office across the street is about 12,000 square feet. So I think people are going to be interested to see what it looks like, and to see the design and materials and so on. The community hasn’t really had a look at it yet.”

The building design is still in its earliest stages, which is why the county and the Great Falls Citizens Association are anxious to get community input now.

“The [GFCA] Board thought that the issue was of sufficient importance and that the larger community should have an opportunity to see the preliminary design and provide feedback to the design team as soon as possible,” said Ulfelder.

Ulfelder recently received a copy of the county’s elevations and floor plans for the proposed building, and is expecting to be able to put them on display at the Great Falls Community Library beginning this week.

ACCORDING to Catherine Hanes, a legislative aide in Dranesville District Supervisor Joan DuBois’ office, the building planners are aiming to achieve a “gold” certification under the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards.

“It’s basically an architectural standard for green building techniques and energy efficiency,” said Hanes.

County planners working on McLean’s Dolley Madison Library renovation project are striving to achieve a “silver” LEED classification, but the Great Falls Fire Station will be the first county building project in the Dranesville District “going for gold.” As part of this effort, the current design proposal calls for a vegetative roof that would install ground cover on certain roof sections to help storm water and prevent excessive runoff, and to achieve energy efficiency by keeping the building cool.

Another design aspect of the project is that it proposes to have the hose tower of the building resemble a farm silo. This feature was suggested by the Great Falls Volunteer firefighters, who felt that it would help keep the building in synch with the community’s desire to maintain the semi-rural character of Great Falls.

“In the original design that was done by the volunteers, that hose tower looks like a farm silo so that it has kind of a farm feel to it, or a rural feel to it,” said Hanes.

A FEW ASPECTS of the proposed design may be of particular interest to local residents.

“One thing is how they are going to address their septic issue,” said Ulfelder. “Their field has failed and they’ve been doing pump and haul, so that’s an issue there, and I’m sure there will be questions about that.”

The other issues relate to various trail pathways around the fire station property. Members of the Great Falls Trailblazers are concerned that the new building will not provide a pedestrian trail in front of the property — a trail that is seen by some as a crucial connection to the Great Falls Village Center. In addition, some residents are concerned that the new building design eliminates a popular cut-through road which links Georgetown Pike with Walker Road via the back parking lot of the fire station. Ulfelder said these issues and many others will all be discussed at the meeting in two weeks.

“Expenditures for construction are for the following fiscal year, so they’re moving right along, but right now it’s in the preliminary design stage and the county understands that the community needs and wants to see what’s going on,” he said. “Part of the problem is that it’s a fairly tight site — particularly with its septic issues and the existing tower on the site. It makes it a tight squeeze. But the point is, the community will get the chance to provide input.”