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Votes

Historic District Plan OK'd

Recommend including three parcels along Route 29.

It's on to the Board of Supervisors now for a plan to enlarge Centreville's Historic District by 72 parcels. It got a thumbs-up last week from the Fairfax County Planning Commission.

THE THINKING is that, if the district is larger and better defined, it will protect Centreville's historic heritage and eventually turn this area into a family-friendly, commercial focal point that could serve as both a community and tourist attraction.

Located off Route 29 and Braddock Road, the district is currently 17 acres; but if the proposal is approved, it would become nearly 85 acres. The study-area boundaries included I-66, Summit Street, Pickwick Road, Lee Highway and Sully Road.

More than two years ago, a 40-member, citizens task force led by Supervisor Michael R. Frey (R-Sully) and then various county entities examined particular sites that contained areas of historical, cultural and/or archaeological significance. These parcels were then evaluated for possible inclusion into the district.

Officially designating them as historic would preserve these sites and ensure that any new development within them be compatible with their historic nature. For example, staff recommends the Civil War earthworks and trenches in the study area be protected and preserved.

They include a deep, 1,000-foot trench called "The Covered Way," which 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.

However, staff didn't include three parcels along Route 29 that are presently home to the CVS Pharmacy, Mercantile Bank and the Fair Lanes bowling alley. But the West Fairfax County Citizens Association (WFCCA) Land-Use Committee believed they should be added, and last Thursday, Feb. 1, the Planning Commission agreed.

When it approved staff's proposal, it included these parcels in the enlarged Historic District. It's generally believed that the shopping center containing the bowling alley was part of the original Eagle Tavern parcel which is integral to Centreville's heritage.

AND ALTHOUGH staff had recommended that auto-oriented uses be prohibited throughout the district, the commissioners realized it wouldn't be fair to the commercial businesses on historic property fronting on Route 29. For instance, the CVS has a drive-through window, and the Bank of America to be built along Route 29 will have one, too.

So, according to At-Large Planning Commissioner Jim Hart, in the proposal's latest incarnation, auto-oriented uses are "discouraged" within the Historic District, except for the parcels whose frontage is on Route 29.

In addition, staff also recommended for inclusion into the district a one-acre or so area of office condos, off Braddock, called Centre Square. Don Bradsher, president of the condo association, objected vehemently.

He noted that these condos were built in 1985, a year prior to creation of the Historic District in 1986, and they're not historic buildings." He feared that, if they were included in the Historic Overlay District, anything requiring a building permit — like a new roof — would trigger a review before the Architectural Review Board (ARB).

But Linda Cornish Blank, with the county's Department of Planning and Zoning, replied that, according to the Zoning ordinance, buildings in historic overlay districts which are "non-contributing" — meaning they have no historic significance in and of themselves — are not subject to ARB approval for in-kind replacement materials, even when a building permit is required. And the Centre Square condos are classified as "non-contributing."

Bradsher also contended that a future new developer there would be frightened off by the county requiring an archaeological dig prior to the construction of anything new on that property. But Sully District Planning Commissioner Ron Koch said that, in Bradsher's case, the Historic District designation wouldn't make any difference.

"[His] building is on the [former] location of the historic Moeller house, so the site is already on the inventory of historical sites," explained Koch. "Therefore, a new developer would have to do an archaeological dig, anyway."

Next stop for the Historic District expansion proposal is the Board of Supervisors on Feb. 26.