Opinion: Letter to the Editor: Responsible Stewardship

Opinion: Letter to the Editor: Responsible Stewardship

As residents of the Seminary Ridge neighborhood of Alexandria, we have major concerns about a proposal under review by the city’s Planning and Zoning Department requesting approval of a site plan to allow the construction of four abnormally large homes at 3832 Seminary Road, adjacent to Temple Beth El.

After careful study and consultation with experts we feel that the current plan for construction is a bad idea, both economically and environmentally.

Economically, the proposed homes would be built on soils with a high content of Arell (Marine) clay, which has a high shrink/swell factor, posing a problem for building foundations and retaining walls. Two of the houses would be built on the steepest slopes in Alexandria’s geologic atlas making them at the highest risk for slope failure. Destabilizing the walls of the ravine would pose a threat to adjacent properties. The large homes, a new street, sidewalks, driveways and extensive tree removal will add to runoff problems.

Construction would require significant soil removal and the addition of fill to each of the four lots. The changes in topography and the addition of impervious surfaces would increase storm water runoff adding to existing water problems and wet backyards for adjacent property owners.

Alexandria has a history of allowing developers to build on steep slopes with unstable soils. This has led to sliding foundations, leaky basements, and runoff problems that were foreseen but ignored. Eventually the unsuspecting homeowners have had to pay to fix these expensive problems.

Environmentally, the three-acre site is a remnant of the wooded areas that existed throughout Alexandria before suburban development. It contains the last headwaters of Strawberry Run that remain in a semi-natural condition. The unspoiled area of the property provides habitat for birds, deer and other wildlife found in the Strawberry Run wildlife corridor. The ravine also has a natural spring and wetlands.

Alexandria is officially committed to being an Eco-City where the stewardship of its land seeks a balance to provide the best outcomes for the human and natural worlds. Our view is that destruction of this pocket of tree canopy and wildlife for more large houses on unstable slopes fails to find that balance.

Because the interests of homeowners and the environment have too often taken a back seat to development, we have formed The Alexandria Coalition for Responsible Stewardship. Our goal is to work with city officials to honor its environmental sustainability goals and to achieve solutions that protect our neighborhood from potential mud slides, shifting foundations and water runoff into neighboring properties. All of these problems have occurred from construction on unstable slopes in the past. We also seek to protect the Strawberry Run watershed and its wildlife habitat as much as feasible. We welcome the support of other concerned Alexandria citizens.

The Alexandria Coalition for Responsible Stewardship

Loren Needles, co-chair

Pat Tokarz, co-chair