Opinion: Letter to the Editor: Redeveloping 8800 Site

Opinion: Letter to the Editor: Redeveloping 8800 Site

I have been reading the letters by individuals about the proposed project at 8800 Richmond Highway. I live a short distance from the proposed project and am very active in my neighborhood and with the Mount Vernon Council of Citizens’ Association (MVCCA) and formerly as a board member of the SFDC, so I have been very involved in trying to improve Richmond Highway, seeing it revitalize and redevelop. I am shocked by the letters of opposition sent in to this paper, as they are a travesty.

Six years ago, myself and a couple of neighbors met with the county staff (Planning and Environmental) and asked what we could do as a neighborhood to facilitate a redevelopment of the 8800 site. We got background information on the Plan, Zoning, and Environmental factors, all of which seemed to be trumped by the fact that it is zoned a heavy Commercial category, C-8 along the frontage, while the plan recommendation is for private open-space. That open-space plan recommendation was impossible to accomplish as long as it was a C-8.

In 2014 the MVCCA asked former Mount Vernon Supervisor Gerry Hyland to authorize a Comprehensive Plan Amendment to add a “residential option” to 8800 Richmond Highway. Supervisor Hyland wrote a Board Matter that was approved by the Board of Supervisors, (BOS). The Board Matter directed the county staff to develop a Comprehensive Plan Amendment, (CPA), allowing a “residential option” on the site. This action would do two things: 1) through redevelopment of the site the commercial by right would be removed, and 2) the community and county would have a shot to remediate the environmental issues, through private sector dollars, should a developer be interested.

The staff dragged their feet. When asked for a status report on the requested CPA by the MVCCA and Supervisor Hyland they stated they would address 8800 Richmond Highway as part of the Embark Plan, as it was being written at that time. Then we had an election, Gerry Hyland stepped down and Dan Storck became our new supervisor. The staff finished the Embark Plan but did not include the C-8 property in the plan. Once again, Supervisor Dan Storck asked the Board of Supervisors, through a Board Matter, to direct staff to write a CPA to add a “residential option” to 8800 Richmond Highway, however, not supporting any application at the time, and this is where we are now.

I have reviewed all of the technical and engineering reports that were done and provided to the county and I am flabbergasted that the information in them is not being discussed nor addressed by the opposition: Such as the Corps of Engineering wetlands report and delineation, or the Flood Plain Study that was approved by the county Department of Public Works and Environmental Services.

The Flood Plain Study proved that the current flood plain lines were incorrect and needed to be changed. Once the application is approved, the reports and appropriate paperwork will be sent to FEMA to correct the lines. We all also need to understand that the Flood Plain Study concluded that this area was not a functioning flood plain either, which the DPWES signed off on. Most of the site that is proposed for the townhouses is not only not a functioning floodplain (has no effect on the actual flood plain), it is above the elevation for the flood plain and is way outside of the wetlands delineation, but is already heavily compacted with rock, macadamized with asphalt and filled with concrete footings from 70 years of previous commercial uses. So how is this area that is not a functioning floodplain, not a functioning EQC or RPA considered for environmental preservation, when the county has stated there is no plan or money to do so? Well clearly that is pure bunk.

Around 1990 the current owner’s family donated 17 acres of their land to the Fairfax County Park Authority, through which Dogue Creek mostly passes, has sat untouched and unnamed. I first heard of Pole Road Park within the past several months. I laughed when I heard this name, thinking, “Well at least we have a name for this untouched property owned by the Park Authority.” Also, this site was first developed in 1955 and has been heavily used for over 70 years with buildings, parking lots, amusement park rides, etc Does that make for a site that is a EQC or RPA and is zoned C-8 a pristine environmental and open-space asset? Of course not.

This proposal will finally cut back on the compacted, asphalt and concrete by 40 percent and bring in clean fill that will raise the site above any of the surrounding areas including the shopping center directly adjacent and the townhomes behind.

This proposal will finally clean up the site and add a true RPA and EQC adjacent to the stream, clean up the wetlands that are also filled with 70-year-old concrete slabs and asphalt, remove invasive species and protect the stream’s banks from further erosion.

Denying the proposal will be a slap in the face of real environmental cleanup and protection, a slap in the face of revitalization of a poor, by- right, zoned C-8 parcel and a slap in the face of an opportunity to clean up and make environmental improvements by adding sorely needed higher end residential on this neglected portion of the highway. What the opponents are not saying is the other option … will be a C-8 by-right development.

Karen Pohorylo