It's been more than two years in the making and, on Monday, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a plan to enlarge Centreville's Historic District.
That means this now-17-acre area off Route 29 and Braddock Road will gain 72 parcels to become nearly 85 acres. And the expansion paves the way for what can happen there in the future.
Besides increasing and better defining the Historic District, the plan lays the groundwork for the eventual creation there of a family-friendly, commercial focal point to serve as the true "heart of Centreville" — a community attraction that respects, honors and promotes Centreville's heritage.
Supervisor Michael R. Frey (R-Sully) set it all in motion in late 2004 when he created and spearheaded a 40-member, citizens task force (working group) to discuss what should be in the Historic District and their ultimate goals for it.
The study-area boundaries included I-66, Summit Street, Pickwick Road, Lee Highway and Sully Road. And the sites scrutinized by the task force and then by various county entities all contained areas of historical, cultural and/or archaeological significance.
It's believed that including them in the Historic District will ensure their preservation and require any new development within that area to be compatible with its historic nature. And Frey was delighted that the Board agreed.
"It's taken a long time to get here," he said. "The working group was tremendously helpful, as were all of the groups involved, like the Civil War Roundtable [and other history organizations]. And it was a tremendous effort by county staff" — which took everyone's proposals and created an actual document.
HOWEVER, it wasn't without some controversy. For example, staff recommended including in the district a one-acre or so area of office condos, off Braddock, called Centre Square. But Don Bradsher, condo association president, objected.
He said the condos were built a year before the Historic District was created in 1986, and they're not historic buildings. And he didn't want future redevelopers to have to perform archaeological digs on the property before they could build.
But both the county Planning Commission and the Supervisors disagreed with him and included this area in the enlarged Historic District.
"It's more perception than real impact, given the fact they're right in the heart of the Historic District," said Frey. "And if they do redevelop, it seems appropriate that they do archaeological surveys. It makes sense to me."
Indeed, he noted that, five or six months ago, language was added to the county Zoning Ordinance requiring a Phase I archaeological survey for properties in or adjacent to a historic district. And, said Frey, "The survey must be submitted with the rezoning application so the county can see what's there and where the property should and shouldn't be developed."
The expanded Historic District also protects and preserves some important Civil War earthworks and trenches. They include a deep, 1,000-foot trench called "The Covered Way," coming off Pickwick and running between Walney Glen and the homes on Summit Street. During the Civil War, this trench protected soldiers carrying munitions back and forth between the forts.
"Staff recommended just the rear portions of the Summit Street lots where the trenches are be included, and the Board agreed," said Frey. "The ARB [Achitectural Review Board] and Historic Committee thought whole lots should be included, but it seemed unnecessary to me. What we really wanted to protect were the trenches, and not impact the people living in their houses."
The initial plan also 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, Planning Commission and Supervisors believed they should be added.
IT'S GENERALLY believed that the shopping center containing the bowling alley was part of the original Eagle Tavern parcel integral to Centreville's heritage.
In addition, staff had recommended auto-oriented uses be prohibited throughout the district, but the commissioners and supervisors 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, said Frey, "We restricted auto-oriented uses completely within the internal pieces of the District, but allowed them by special exception for the uses along Lee Highway. Each would be decided on a case-by-case basis."
The county Zoning Ordinance will now be amended to add the newly encompassed areas into the official Centreville Historic Overlay District. The county's Comprehensive Plan will be amended, as well, to reflect the changes and overall vision for the Historic District.
"I'm very happy," said Frey. "I think we have a good plan. Now we need to work with the property owners to implement it. And that's the real test: Is the market there for restaurants and shops and a mix of small-scale retail and new housing?"
Actually, he said, very minor changes were made regarding what uses the Comprehensive Plan allows in the Historic District. The main obstacle to overcome is the current "lack of visibility and access" to the District that, hopefully, can now start to be addressed and rectified.
"People don't know where it is," said Frey. "The best thing that happened to the Historic District was when the Centreville Community Foundation moved the Centreville Day celebration back there. Then people said, 'Look what we have there. I didn't know this was here.' Centreville Day pulled people into the Historic District and opened their eyes."
HE SAID the new Bank of America along Route 29 there should be ready for construction soon, and the master plan for Mount Gilead will be in place in three months or so.
"We'll eventually have a seven-acre park there, providing the visibility and access the Historic District needs," said Frey. "And getting businesses in there will attract other businesses."
For example, he said, Dennis Hogge — who owns three acres fronting on Mount Gilead and Braddock roads — previously proposed a Founders Village within the Historic District. It would contain small retail uses and office buildings along the Leland Road extension.
On Tuesday, Hogge said he doesn't have any plans to set that in motion right now, but added, "I hope to do something in the future."