Goat Farm Plan Approved

Goat Farm Plan Approved

Developer will plant more trees, make stronger commitments.

After almost a year of wrangling, the Board of Supervisors approved a new plan for the Goat Farm development in Dunn Loring. The case highlighted whether or not the county can effectively enforce the terms of its rezoning agreements.

"This should be a lesson learned," said Flint Webb, who live near the property.

"What we've seen here is some problems on site, significant problems, but what we have here now is the remedy," said Supervisor Linda Smyth (D-Providence).

The Goat Farm, or Corbin property, is about seven acres at the corner of Gallows and Idlywood roads.

In 2003, the Board of Supervisors rezoned the property to allow 14 houses to be built on land previously approved for seven. One of the reasons the rezoning was granted was that the developer, John Batal, agreed to save trees in two separate areas in the property.

During the preparation of the site for construction, some trees that had initially been marked to be saved were removed. There is a dispute over whether or not some of the tree removals had been approved by the Fairfax County Department of Urban Forestry.

In addition to knocking down some trees, the construction workers moved heavy equipment into areas which they should not have, in one case running over a chain link fence constructed specifically to keep equipment out.

Even after the removal, the county was not able to rescind the rezoning. The developer stood to lose some money for having removed the trees. However, the maximum could have been $20,000, and the sign in front of the development says the houses are selling for $1.5 million.

Earlier this year, the county stopped issuing building permits for construction on the site until the issue could be resolved. Construction activities continued for a few weeks after that under existing permits, but no activity has taken place for months.

The developer filed a Proffered Condition Amendment that states that he will plant more trees and better trees than had been contemplated in the original rezoning.

Frank McDermott, attorney for the developer, noted that although his client filed the amendment, he still has factual disputes with county staff. The filing should not be taken as an admission of wrongdoing, he said.

The developer and citizens have been working closely together to develop the new plans. Each side praised the other for their efforts.

The developer will also take responsibility for maintaining the trees longer than he had initially, and has agreed to increasing the bond amount to $100,000 and an additional $32,000 for trees on neighboring properties. "There are a lot of protections in there that were not in there before," McDermott said.

The board approved the amendment unanimously. Batal will now have to obtain the next set of building permits before construction can resume.