D.C. United Plans Hit Glitch

D.C. United Plans Hit Glitch

Professional soccer team D.C. United wants to build a training facility in Chantilly. But before it may do so, Fairfax County's zoning ordinance must be amended to allow the county Park Authority to enter into a partnership with a commercial entity.

The good part of this proposal is that, if D.C. United is allowed to carry out its plans here, it will help provide the financing for seven soccer fields for local youth teams. It will also construct two, premier rectangular fields for its own practices.

Local youth could use these fields for tournaments, and D.C. United would hold training clinics to help these young athletes improve their skills. And the seven fields — lighted, like the premier fields would be — would help fill the serious shortage of soccer fields in the Sully District.

However, the proposed location of the fields and the training building — on environmentally sensitive land zoned "residential conservation" (RC) — is causing some real concern among area residents. And they may learn more about the issue and express their opinions at the Tuesday, Sept. 17, meeting of the West Fairfax County Citizens Association Land-Use Committee.

The group meets at 7 p.m. in Supervisor Michael R. Frey's (R-Sully) conference room in the Fort Hill Building, 5900 Centreville Road in Centreville. The public is also welcome to attend the Thursday, Sept. 19, meeting of the county Planning Commission, at the Fairfax County Government Center, where the matter will again be discussed, some time after 8:15 p.m.

In spring 2000, the county purchased 169 acres at Old Lee and Braddock Roads in Centreville. The western half will remain an oak/hickory forest, but the eastern half — known as the Quinn property — is pastureland that has water and can be sewered.

It will have easy access from Route 28. And the county transportation plan calls for the upgrading of Old Lee Road there, from two to four lanes, from Willard to Pleasant Valley Road. Old Lee will also be realigned with Braddock through the site, and a new entrance road will come off of Braddock.

As for the soccer fields, Lynn Tadlock, the Park Authority's director of Planning and Development, said it would cost an estimated $18 million to build the whole project. But since the county doesn't have the money to develop it, county staff is recommending it be accomplished via a public/private partnership with D.C. United.

However, the size and intense usage of the proposed D.C. United training facility on RC land is already causing worry. That land was part of some 40,000 acres downzoned by the county in 1982 to prevent high-density development there and thereby safeguard the quality of the county's drinking water by limiting the amount of impervious-surface runoff reaching the Occoquan.

"D.C. United plans, possibly, a three- or four-story building," said WFCCA Land-Use Chairman Jim Katcham. "Aside from the impact on the skyline, several folks believe it's ironic that we're celebrating the 20th year of the downzoning, but this could bend it."

He also noted how the county seems to be deviating from its usual position in another matter relating to this property. "The county standard for undisturbed open space [in the RC] is 50 percent," he said. "Churches [which wanted to build worship facilities on similar land] were told they couldn't even mow [their grass and weeds]."

But in the county staff-report on this issue, exercise stations and benches would be allowed on this land. Said Katcham: "It's one example of the inconsistencies between the current zoning ordinance regarding the criteria for undisturbed open space, and what's proposed."

He also wants more specific details about the lighting plans for the site, and he worries about the large number of cars that would drive onto this land. But most of all — after the county has withstood several challenges to the Occoquan Downzoning, over the years, from eager residential developers — Katcham doesn't want to see it all go down the drain.

"There's a lot of land in there," he said. "The concern is that, if you bend the rules in the RC, a lot of developers would love [the opportunity] to challenge the downzoning."