Evolving Land Use in Great Falls: Previous Classification

Evolving Land Use in Great Falls: Previous Classification

Board approves plan for nine homes on 11 wooded acres in Great Falls.

Sandra Cappiello made one last attempt to prevent the felling of 11 acres of trees near her property on land that used to be the Hill Nursery.

“Gulick Group’s proposal would remove hundreds, if not, we believe, thousands, of trees in environmentally sensitive land,” said Cappiello.

“There are very large trees on this property and the density is approximately 100 trees per acre. We’re talking about 11 acres, that’s a lot of trees,” said Dranesville Tree Commissioner Robert Vickers, speaking to the Board of Supervisors as a Great Falls resident.

There is a lot of concern about storm runoff due to the clear cutting. The whole thing is going to require a lot of grading and grading means tree loss.” — Robert Vickers, Great Falls

“[Clearcutting] is not what is happening here.” — Supervisor John Foust, praising tree preservation in Gulick plan

“I think you have a tree preservation success story.” — Gregory Riegle, McGuireWoods representing the Gulick Group

The Supervisors granted The Gulick Group’s application to build a nine-lot cluster subdivision on the 11 acres of land in Lexington Estates at its Board Meeting on Jan. 24. Originally, Gulick proposed 10 houses.

The average lot size will be 32,425 square feet, according to planner Bob Katai.

“Gulick has done a lot to preserve the number of trees. I give them a lot of credit for that,” said Vickers.

“I just wish that they could somehow reduce the footprint of clear cutting,” he said. “There is a lot of concern about storm runoff due to the clear cutting. The whole thing is going to require a lot of grading and grading means tree loss.”

Vickers offered to assist by advising on the development process, an offer accepted by Gulick’s representative Gregory Riegle, to identify more trees that could potentially be saved.

Dranesville Supervisor John W. Foust called word use of “clear cutting” a misnomer since The Gulick Group plan more than doubles the tree preservation and tree canopy required under land use zoning requirements.

“[Clearcutting] is not what is happening here,” said Foust.

“This application dramatically exceeds minimum requirements,” said Foust. “The community worked hard and the applicant worked cooperatively with us.”

Riegle, representing The Gulick Group, said final tree canopy coverages are 73 percent greater than the minimum amount required and the overall tree preservation commitment is 66 percent greater than the required targets.

“I think you have a tree preservation success story,” said Riegle.

THE GULICK GROUP applied to rezone the property from R-A (Residential Agricultural) to R-1 in order to permit development of a nine-lot cluster single family subdivision at a density of 0.82 dwelling units per acre.

The area, part of Lexington Estates, is currently an undeveloped, forested, 11-acre parcel that is composed of moderate slopes that steepen towards the Piney Run floodplain.

The application was originally heard by the Planning Commission in July, which recommended approval of the application in December.

“The history that’s brought us to this afternoon is interesting on a lot of levels,” said Riegle.

“To start,...the existing RA zoning was an existing agricultural use for a planned nursery. What this application practically does is to take this property back to the zoning that existed prior to the nursery and prior to that RA zoned classification,” he said.

GREAT FALLS Citizens Association originally opposed the project but gave Foust its voice of approval in December.

“I will point out, that didn’t come until very late in the process. We had a very difficult negotiation,” said Foust.

“My Planning Commissioner at the Planning Commission hearing recognized this wasn’t something we could be comfortable with and it has evolved,” said Foust.

Because of this case and Brooks Farm development, Great Falls Citizens Association formed a stormwater task force.

“For more than a half year, the Great Falls Citizens Association and Lexington Estates homeowners advocated for enhanced stormwater management, preservation for trees in the Piney Run floodplain and sediment and erosion control,” Dranesville Planning Commissioner John Ulfelder said at the Planning Commission’s decision-only hearing in December. “Overall, it allows for further improvement in both water quantity and quality for the proposed site.”

The Gulick Group committed to the installation of alternative septic systems that “require more attention and care” but “significantly reduce potential impact of residential sewage on the environment,” said Ulfelder. And, during construction, Gulick Group will also use “super silt fencing” along clearing and grading to “maximize erosion and sediment control during the construction phase of the proposed subdivision.”

Riegle, of McGuireWoods, said he and the Gulick Group “owe GFCA thanks for their efforts to try constructively make this application better.”

“In the weeks and months that led to this public hearing, there were considerable community discussions and the results of that were significant and include: a reduction in density in the proposal, the strategic reorientation of the development to reduce impacts, an increase in the peripheral buffers on the northern and eastern lot lines, and a voluntary expansion of the required Environmental Quality Corridor that almost doubles it,” he said.