Opinion: Letter to the Editor: Environmentally Important

Opinion: Letter to the Editor: Environmentally Important

In an Oct. 25 letter [“Redeveloping 8800 Site”], Karen Pohorylo argues that a proposed townhome development in the floodplain at 8800 Richmond Highway will improve the site environmentally.

Ms. Pohorylo and proponents of this development seek to compound the past abuse and neglect of this property by rationalizing that the property is so environmentally damaged and non-functioning that developing it is the only solution. They argue that environmental protections don’t apply.

She claims that a floodplain study concluded that the area is not now a functioning floodplain and has no effect on the actual floodplain.

That’s false. According to the floodplain study, the floodplain covers most of the property. The study makes no conclusions about the functionality of the depicted floodplain. This proposed project would permanently remove two acres of the floodplain by filling it with 41,000 cubic yards of fill.

The county’s Chesapeake Bay Preservation Ordinance protects land adjacent to Dogue Creek from development in order to reduce erosion and buffer the creek from polluted stormwater runoff. Stream buffers filter pollutants, absorb runoff and protect water quality. The protections of the Chesapeake Bay Preservation Ordinance apply to damaged as well as pristine streams, and they apply to the entire 8800 Richmond Highway site. The county is currently spending millions in taxpayer dollars to correct past wrongs and restore streams that were harmed by past development. It makes no sense to support a project that would fill in Dogue Creek’s buffers and build over them.

The developers’ project would also violate the Fairfax County Comprehensive Plan’s protections of the county’s stream valleys from development. The largely undeveloped Dogue Creek stream valley is a rare jewel, a series of watery natural areas that provide ecological services, open space, wildlife corridors and native habitat in a very developed area. County policy says that development in such areas should be allowed only in extraordinary circumstances, and only when there would be net environmental benefits. No one has offered an extraordinary circumstance justifying this development. The applicant has not demonstrated that it improves the natural resources there.

Placing 41,000 cubic yards of fill in the floodplain and building 43 townhomes on top will result in a loss of wetlands, the floodplain and vegetated lands that buffer Dogue Creek. It goes against the environmental provisions and the development vision for the Richmond Highway Corridor offered by the Embark Plan, passed by the Board of Supervisors only last year. County engineers and experts unanimously, and rightly, oppose this development

The developers’ self-serving argument that building in the floodplain and protected lands adjacent to Dogue Creek will result in environmental improvements is false and should be rejected by the Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors.

Elizabeth Martin