To the Editor:
Finally, the big day is here. Tonight (May 17) beginning at 8:15 p.m., the Planning Commission is conducting a public hearing to determine whether the proposed interim use off-leash dog area (OLDA) at Westgrove Park complies with the comprehensive plan. Interested persons may testify in person at the County's Board of Supervisors' Boardroom or at a satellite location at the South County Center on Richmond Highway.
Those in support of the OLDA proposal include Supervisor Hyland, Mount Vernon Park Authority Commissioner Linwood Gorham, the MVCCA, virtually every closely adjacent community, Westgrove PACK (the sponsors) and 500+ petition signers. The staff report came out two weeks ago and recommends approval. It can be read at: www.fairfaxcounty.gov/dpz/2232/staffreports/2232-v11-25.pdf
The opponents are few and far between, but illustrate an epidemic we have in the Mount Vernon District, an epidemic of people in the civic arena who must realize their view of the issues is not shared by the majority, so in order to leverage their position and make it seem like it is shared by a larger universe, they create organization names that don't credibly exist and sign their names as representing those fictional organizations, or alternatively claim they are speaking on behalf of established organizations when that is not in fact the case.
The poster-woman for the former practice is Mary Jo Detweiler whose letter in opposition to the proposed OLDA was published in last week's Gazette and then submitted to the Planning Commission. She signed her letter as submitted on behalf of "Friends of Westgrove Park." Does this "organization" exist?
A search at www.google.com revealed only 11 total hits, a few of which were in reference to the Gazette letter. The others were in connection with correspondence with the National Park Service (NPS) and a Congressional resolution submitted by Congressman Connolly which praised another OLDA opponent, Glenda Booth, who is the president of the Friends of Dyke Marsh (FODM). It turns out that Ms. Detweiler is a member of the Board of Directors of FODM. A search of the Virginia Corporate records revealed no corporation, non-profit or otherwise, under the name Friends of Westgrove Park.
Meanwhile, the leaders of Westgrove PACK, the OLDA proponents, reported that they have never received any communication whatsoever from anyone claiming affiliation with Friends of Westgrove Park. If Friends of Westgrove exists, it certainly isn't very active. Having surfaced just days prior to the Planning Commission hearing, its views shouldn't be accorded much deference.
That brings us to the aforementioned Glenda Booth who has been quoted in a prior Gazette as opposing the OLDA proposal. In one e-mail she sent to the Fairfax County Park Authority (FCPA) seeking information, she signed her name identifying herself as chairman of the County's Wetlands Board. There is not a square inch of Westgrove Park that falls within the jurisdiction of any possible issue that could come before the Wetlands Board. As such, although Ms. Booth is, in fact, its chairman, her self-identification as Wetlands Board chair is but another example of an attempt by a community activist to improperly leverage her position to her advantage.
Sally Kiefer presents another compelling example. When the MVCCA's Environment and Recreation (E&R) Committee was debating a resolution last year concerning the OLDA, she made her views known as the representative of River Towers Condo Association (RTCA), proclaiming that she was there on behalf of the residents of River Towers to oppose the proposed OLDA. A subsequent investigation revealed that the OLDA had never previously been on RTCA's agenda and there had never been a vote taken by RTCA on the OLDA. Thus, Ms. Kiefer's views were her own and not necessarily representative of the River Towers community. I spoke to a member of the RTCA Board this week who confirmed that, to date, the Westgrove Park OLDA has never been an agenda item at one of their Board meetings.
Eleanor Quigley is our Mount Vernon Tree Commissioner who famously admitted to the Planning Commission, during their debate concerning a proposal to re-zone the Leatherland property, that she has no technical expertise concerning trees. This hasn't stopped Ms. Quigley from opposing the OLDA and suggesting that the open grassy area proposed for the OLDA would be better served as a location to plant trees. Of course, those who have even minimal knowledge concerning the site understand that beneath the grass are the buried remnants of a sewage treatment plant that would have to be excavated at considerable cost before any significant trees could be planted. Who does Ms. Quigley propose should pay for that excavation and restoration?
These are the main OLDA opponents — quite a crew. In the future, I urge the Gazette to more closely scrutinize letters to the editor coming from people who claim to be writing on behalf of organizations that are actually fictitious. I also urge civic activists to refrain from claiming they are asserting a position on behalf of an organization, when that is not in fact the case.
H. Jay Spiegel
Mount Vernon District