Gerry's "bus," with its 400 plus "passengers," once again hit the "road" during the 20th Annual Town Meeting of Mount Vernon District at Mount Vernon High School's Little Theatre on Feb. 3. Seated on his high stool in his trademark blue and white Ralph Kramden windbreaker, Hyland took his audience on a tour of Mount Vernon District's various development/revitalization projects.
His first stop was the site of a victory for not only Hyland but the entire Mount Vernon community—the preservation and strengthening of Inova Mount Vernon Hospital. "Mount Vernon hospital is here to stay. And the commitment of the Inova Health System is to make it better than it ever was," Hyland declared.
He cited various improvements to the hospital including the addition of private rooms and various medical capabilities. However, he admitted, "We are still trying to find a way to bring obstetrics to this hospital."
Continuing the preservation of life theme from human to botanical, Hyland next turned to the need to save "old specimen trees" such as one on Sherwood Hall Lane that nearly fell prey to the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT). Admitting to being an "unabashed tree hugger," Hyland said the only way he wants to see any tree felled is if "there is no other choice."
From there he turned to one of The Highway's most lingering and elusive development sites—Kings Crossing at the intersection of Route 1 and South Kings Highway. Noting that the potential developer of the site, JPI Development, was "still interested," Hyland said that "active negotiations were ongoing with Wegman's grocery" for the 11 plus acre location.
"I would prefer not to have a big box development on this site. I would prefer a mixed use development as was planned by JPI," he said.
He also displayed slides of the new Del Ray Glass headquarters and the site being prepared for a future Chili's Restaurant next to the new Commerce Bank building across from Groveton Baptist Church. The former Chi Chi's Restaurant at Beacon Mall has been demolished and is being replaced with a TGI Friday's Restaurant.
ONE OF THE MOST controversial locales highlighted by Hyland as he "toured" the district was North Hill and the on-going struggle between affordable housing and open space advocates. He has been trying to find an equitable middle ground that will address the interests of both groups.
"Twenty five years ago I was engaged in an effort to acquire this property to protect it as a new mobile home site. Fairfax County made a commitment to put mobile homes on this site. It was an existing mobile home park at that time," he said.
"We paid $5 million for the land at that time. However, it took so long to bring about the increased mobile home sites, they escalated in price to $90,000 a pad," Hyland said.
Hyland admitted that a task force he appointed came back with a recommendation to preserve North Hill as purely open space. "If I left it a park, the open space advocates would be happy. If I push for it to be a mobile home park, those advocates would be happy. I think there is a way to develop a portion as park land and a portion as a mobile home site," he told the audience.
"That allows everyone to be a little happy and a little unhappy. This is where I am and where I hope to go with this site. Affordable work force housing needs to be addressed," Hyland emphasized.
On another open space subject, Hyland said, "We are still hoping for a swap with the government to keep Westgrove Park as passive open space." This is still in the talking stage, according to Hyland.
He then turned to the new "green building" being undertaken by DAKS Restaurant on Route 1 in the Woodlawn area which will be a truly green building. A new Walgreens pharmacy/store is to occupy the present site of DAKS at Boswell Avenue.
Not ignoring his four legged friends, Hyland's emphasized the new off-leash dog park that opened last year at Grist Mill Park on Route 235. He also encouraged anyone who has not visited the new Vistors Center and Education/Museum addition at Mount Vernon Estate to do so. "This is truly magnificent and something you do not want to miss," he said.
Another long simmering frustration in the Woodlawn area is the replacement of Woodlawn Road closed after the Sept. 11 attacks as a Fort Belvoir security measure. "The replacement of Woodlawn Road can only happen if we can exchange land with Woodlawn Plantation," he said. This is also tied to the potential construction of a Marriott Residence Inn proposed for a site next to Belvoir's Woodlawn Gate on a land swap with Woodlawn Plantation.
Touching on another prime area of interest to himself and the Mount Vernon community, Hyland turned to the recently announced new location of the National Museum of the U.S. Army, which is now planned for the Kingman Gate area off Fairfax County Parkway. "This is not the most desirable location but it is far better than the Engineering Proving Grounds," he said.
Hyland remains hopeful the museum will eventually be situated next to Fort Belvoir's main Pence Gate off Route 1. That site is viewed by Hyland and other local leaders as the most advantageous to tie the museum and its expected tourism in with other local tourist attractions such as Mount Vernon Estate, Gunston Hall and Woodlawn Plantation.
TURNING TO HUNTINGTON and last summer's devastating flood, Hyland noted that several options are under consideration to prevent this from happening again. They include dredging Cameron Run Creek and constructing a flood wall.
"If we dredge now that would give the community two feet more protection from rising waters. But, the ultimate solution is construction of a flood wall," he said.
"Some people suggested removal of the community all together. This community is affordable housing for County residents. I will fight to keep this community," Hyland insisted.
In answer to an earlier question from the audience pertaining to the construction of a new development known as Huntington Mews and its replacement of existing homes, Hyland explained, "This is occurring because 99 percent of the people in that area who owned those homes agreed to sell their properties to the developer and their decision was supported by the Huntington Civic Association."
He went on to clarify that, "The older homes will be removed from the flood plain and the 85 new townhouses will be elevated to add protection from any future flooding."
Other items of interest pointed out by Hyland during his "tour" included:
oThe possible repositioning of a controversial cellular transmission monopole from Mount Vernon High School property to land adjacent to the Mount Vernon Recreation Center.
oIn the Lorton area he highlighted the proposed IHS healthplex designed to strengthen healthcare to the growing Lorton area population and enhance the services of Inova Mount Vernon Hospital; the creation of a new sportsplex; and the recent approval by the County Board of Supervisors to covert a landfill into a 250 acre nature preserve.
o Work on the Route 1 Interchange and the future construction envisioned for Telegraph Road and Huntington Avenue, both elements of the Woodrow Wilson Bridge Project.
Relinquishing his "bus driver" seat, Hyland concluded his annual tour with a ceremony by Col. Brian Lauritzen, installation commander, Fort Belvoir, officially presenting the deed for the McNaughton Memorial Ballfields, to representatives of the Fairfax County Park Authority. Locallly known as the Woodlawn Little League Ballfields they have been home to that league for 40 years although located on Belvoir property. The ceremony culminated years of negotiations between the Department of The Army, the league and local political leaders.