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Insiders: What’s Ahead for Mount Vernon?

Because of the decision to close Walter Reed hospital and transfer some of its functions to Fort Belvoir, and to transfer military functions formerly assigned to other military bases in the region, Fort Belvoir is at the epicenter of one of the major forces affecting not only Mount Vernon but northern Virginia.

When construction is completed some time in 2011, an estimated 19,000 additional employees will be employed at Fort Belvoir. A new $807 million state-of-the-art hospital, new wounded warriors transition rehabilitation center, and a new child development center among other functions will be added.

• A new national museum of the U.S. Army will be built nearby to Fort Belvoir on Route 235. Initial construction cost estimates are $200 million. It will attract tens of thousands of visitors annually. Its presence will impact the area's transportation, hotel and motel requirements, and commercial functions to accommodate the new influx of visitors from around the country.

• The Mount Vernon Ladies Association, which manages the George Washington estate, will construct a library adjacent to the existing estate of President George Washington. The library will include a convention center which will be open approximately 220 days a year.

• The Board of Supervisors authorized $3 million to design a Route 1 expansion from four lanes to six lanes, anticipated to be completed by 2014-15. The work includes expanding a two-mile stretch of the highway beginning at Route 235 south to the Fairfax County Parkway along with a median and turnaround lane. This section will run through Ft. Belvoir and will be designed to handle the increased traffic brought on by Ft. Belvoir expansion.

• The Inova Health System recently announced an investment of $43.6 million to expand the number of services and in-patient beds of the Inova Mount Vernon Hospital. In addition, plans by the Inova Health System are well under way in Lorton to create a Lorton Health Plex which will provide walk-in emergency and outpatient clinical health services and serve as a southern referral for in-patient services at Mount Vernon Hospital.

• Several applications to erect these cell phone towers, which will help facilitate cell phone reception locally, have been submitted to the Planning Commission for approval. Residents immediately adjacent to the proposed sites have generally opposed the monopoles while conceding their need. Applicants have offered financial incentives to the Park Authority and Fairfax County school system to gain approval for construction on public land.

• Because of past experience in having their basements flooded and with no near-term protection being offered, Huntington Avenue-area residents may set aside their status as a conservation district in order to allow builders to redevelop the area. This older neighborhood is within walking distance of the Huntington metro transit station and therefore a prime target for redevelopment.

• North Hill Affordable Housing Project Plans are underway and the Board of Supervisors is expected to approve a plan to build affordable housing units at North Hill along Richmond Highway. These housing units will be available to qualified applicants with an annual income over $50,000.

IN ADDITION to the above developments, land use planning has been one of the single most overarching subjects of attention for local county government officials and the efforts of affected volunteer community leaders. All are collaborating to keep up with development needs and events which will affect transportation and other infrastructure demands. Here is a partial representative list of proposed land use plans affecting Mount Vernon district:

• North Gateway Community Business Center;

• Kings Crossing Business Center: Walmart is already constructing a store at this site.

• Mt. Vernon Governmental Center Complex;

• Justice Snowden Farm on Parkers Lane;

• Village Town Center at the Smitty's Lumbertaria Site on Route 1;

• Convert the former Mount Vernon High School on Route 1 now used as the Islamic Saudi Academy to house a variety of non-profit organizations. The Islamic Academy is scheduled to move to another part of the county in the near future.

• Hybla Valley/Gum Springs Community Business Center to be compatible with the Little Hunting Creek Watershed Management Plan;

* Beacon/Groveton Business Center to be developed consistent with storm water runoff recommendations;

• A high-rise hotel and convention center at the southwest corner of Huntington Avenue and Route 1.

These and other Mount Vernon-Route 1 impacted proposed land use planning amendments to the Comprehensive Plan will be taken up by the Board of Supervisors beginning in September for an eventual vote by the board. Passage of these nominations to amend the Comprehensive Plan will set in motion development plans affecting the scope and character of Route 1 and the Mount Vernon District for many years to come.