Mount Vernon Supervisor Dan Storck has scheduled a meeting on Jan. 26 at Walt Whitman Middle School from 7-9 p.m. to provide an update on the proposal to re-develop 4.38 acres of the 11 acre Bock Farm at the corner of Parkers Lane and Hinson Farm Road.
The proposal was the subject of a Planning Commission public hearing and hearings before the Board of Supervisors culminating in the decision to defer the final vote to Feb. 14. Over the past month, there have been discussions between the developer, the supervisor, and various neighbors concerning the proposal and a few alternative options are now being considered.
Of interest to me is the fact that Supervisor Storck has stated he will not permit any public comments or discussion at the meeting. I strongly disagree with this decision. In 2010, the Federal Court in Alexandria decided the case New Cingular Wireless PCS, LLC v. Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, Case No. 1:10-cv-283. In that decision, Judge Leonie M. Brinkema agreed with the decision of the Board of Supervisors to deny a permit application to construct a cell phone tower at the Mount Vernon Masonic Lodge on Fort Hunt Road. The underpinning of Judge Brinkema's decision was her view that the concerns of the closest adjacent neighbors most potentially impacted by the proposal should carry the greatest weight.
The MVCCA and the Planning Commission favored construction of the cell tower. The opponents were residents of Plymouth Road adjacent the Lodge. Those residents are not members of any civic association but Judge Brinkema accorded their opposition the greatest weight. Her decision was affirmed by the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond.
It is my understanding that a number of closely adjacent neighbors did not testify before the Planning Commission or the Board of Supervisors. I do not know why this was the case but do note the inconvenience of traveling to the "Taj Mahal" for such meetings. The meeting scheduled by Supervisor Storck at a more convenient location would be an ideal opportunity for anyone else who has comments concerning the various proposed alternatives to comment in a public forum and engage in a public discussion. This may be the last opportunity to do so before the Board of Supervisors votes on Feb. 14.
Stifling free speech is never a good idea. I strongly urge Supervisor Storck to permit public comment and discussion at the meeting so that those neighbors closest to the farm will have the opportunity to weigh in. Doing so may also reduce the county's exposure to litigation should a decision be made by the Board of Supervisors that goes against the wishes of the majority of those closely adjacent neighbors most impacted by the proposed development.
H. Jay Spiegel