Great Falls Citizens Association Votes No on Brooks Farm

Great Falls Citizens Association Votes No on Brooks Farm

Developer says call for 5-acre lots is not financially viable.

Basheer/Edgemoore-Brooks showed the latest proposal to develop 52 acres off Springvale Road. They asked the Planning Commission to reschedule a June public hearing for the fall so they could continue addressing community and Planning Commission staff concerns.

Basheer/Edgemoore-Brooks showed the latest proposal to develop 52 acres off Springvale Road. They asked the Planning Commission to reschedule a June public hearing for the fall so they could continue addressing community and Planning Commission staff concerns. Photo by Ken Moore.

Planners and the land owner keep tweaking, even eliminating three houses from 23 in their cluster development proposal, but Great Falls Citizens Association (GFCA) wanted more than tweaks.

GFCA: The GFCA: The Big Wigs

Great Falls Citizens Association is scheduled to hold its election of officers and directors on June 9.

On May 12, Edward Phillips and the nomination committee revealed the slate of officers, and each was offered a chance to talk for two minutes.

President Eric Knudsen and Vice President Bill Canis volunteered to continue as president and vice president if elected through June 30, 2016.

“This is one of those jobs that it’s hard to find a replacement,” joked Knudsen. “I will just continue what I’ve been doing, and I thank you for your support.”

“We’re going to work on storm water management in the year ahead,” said Canis, who highlighted environmental efforts of GFCA, including oak tree planting, deer management, and environmental issues pertaining to Brooks Farm.

Proposed two-year officers through June 30, 2017, include Dawn MacPhee as GFCA’s secretary and Bud Thompson for treasurer.

Potential directors running for positions through June 30, 2017 include:

Ruth Carver: “I’ve been around a long time and was president back in the 90s and I’m still here.”

Wayne Foley: “I’ve been in Great Falls since 1972.”

Gary Pan: “I’ve been here a short amount of time compared to many, since 2000. I’d love to help out.”

Edward Phillips: “I will pass.”

Donald “Phil” Whitworth: “I’m with Ed.”

Continuing officers include: Jackie Taylor (immediate past president), Ralph Apton, Pamela Grosvenor, Matt Haley, Scott Knight, Phillip Pifer, Zaheer Poptani, Jennifer Semko, and Glen Sjoblom.

Citizens wanted an overhaul, a different zoning category and redesign. And Great Falls Citizens Association stood firm to its resolve despite words of warning from a county official and advocate of trees.

On Tuesday, May 12, 79 of 91 people voted for a resolution to oppose rezoning and cluster development of the 52 acres of Brooks Farm off Springvale Road. Three people abstained and nine people voted against the Great Falls Citizens Association resolution to oppose the redevelopment plan.

“The GFCA believes the property should be developed as a five-acre subdivision, perhaps in the Residential-Conservation ‘RC’ Zoning Category,” according to the resolution passed on Tuesday night at Forestville Elementary School in Great Falls.

“There should also be careful development controls throughout construction to prevent environmental damage,” according to GFCA.

“The common area, including the [Resource Protection Area] and the water dam, and upstream lowland, should remain privately owned, with development conditions, proffers and covenants imposed sufficient to ensure they will be properly maintained and cared for,” reads the resolution. “The County should require the best state-of-the-art stormwater management on every lot, plus best management practice water retention in the common areas.”


More than 100 people attended Great Falls Citizens Association meeting on Brooks Farm Tuesday, May 12. GFCA members voted to oppose the Brooks Farm development proposal.

WHEN FIRST PROPOSED, 1,400 Great Falls residents signed a petition to oppose the rezoning of Brooks Farm, which some call the heart of Great Falls.

GFCA has received hundreds and hundreds of emails in the last couple of months, said Jennifer Semko, chair of GFCA’s Land Use and Zoning committee.

“This has been an interesting issue and it’s definitely gotten people involved,” said President Eric Knudsen. “That’s what GFCA is all about.”

More than 100 attended Tuesday’s meeting, called by Great Falls Citizens Association to vote on its resolution.

“Let me be as blunt as I can be,” said attorney Gregory A. Riegle, of McGuire Woods who represents Basheer/Edgemoore-Brooks, LLC. “We would not be able to meet the expectation of the landowner with five acre lots. There is an economic value to this that we have to balance.”

GREAT FALLS has large-lot zoning and no sewer or water service because of its responsibility to be stewards of the Potomac River to preserve water quality for the region’s drinking water, and to preserve the rural and semi-rural character of the area.

The citizens association takes seriously its mission to “represent the views of its members on issues of interest, which it has pursued consistently since 1968 by supporting low-density zoning and development in large-lot subdivisions,” according to Tuesday’s resolution. “The membership of GFCA is concerned that development at the proposed density would have an adverse impact on the already extensive stormwater erosion problem presently existing along Pond Branch, which rises on Brooks Farm.”

Tuesday’s meeting was the third in 2015, and Basheer/Edgemoor-Brooks pitched the ideal of continued partnership and dialogue with the goal of reaching consensus before a final plan comes to the Fairfax County Planning Commission.

The Planning Commission was scheduled to hold a public hearing in June, but the developers asked for more time to meet concerns of the community and suggestions from the Commission. A public hearing will likely be scheduled for the fall.

“Our message tonight is wanting to continue the dialogue. We’d like to continue to have the conversation,” said Riegle.

“There is an honest willingness to work to resolve issues and we can work together so the community has the ability to be involved so we can all be satisfied with the end point,” he said.

THE DEVELOPER presented a plan Tuesday that was more desireable to residents than the first, second, even third iterations, proposed as late as last month.

For example, by removing three more homes from its proposal, the open space proposed for the property increased to 41 percent and density per acre decreased to 0.38 dwelling units per acre.

The new plan demonstrates willingness to include state of the art water management practices, systems to remove impurities in runoff, groundwater protections, and even the possible prohibition of chemical lawn care methods on future lawns of future homeowners.

“There is a general willingness to work with this community if we agree to continue to work together,” said Riegel.

When asked what incentive residents would have to support Basheer’s plan, Riegel said, “The protection is in the process,” he said.

“If we are successful that we can reach agreement on a development plan, it gives us a set of tools to memorialize all the things we are talking about tonight,” he said. “I think you get the benefit of a known outcome and a certain outcome.”


Brooks Farm is 52 acres off Springvale Road.

DRANESVILLE PLANNING COMMISSIONER John Ulfelder gave the one hundred men and women a warning.

“One thing I would say, I think it is premature for the GFCA to take a resolute opinion,” said Ulfelder.

“There is still staff work to be done. In doing all that, we can’t follow our gut,” he said. “We have to review the plan in context of the comprehensive plan and zoning ordinance.”

“I think it would make sense for this group to make a list of concerns and sit down with this developer,” he said. “That doesn’t mean that you can’t oppose it down the road.”

Bob Vickers, chairman of the Fairfax County Tree Commission, was named 2015 Lord Fairfax for the Dranesville district by Supervisor John Foust earlier in the day Tuesday, May 12 for his efforts to preserve trees and his work educating developers and landowners of the importance of tree canopy on residential lots, especially during development.

Vickers warned residents that five acre zoning could be more detrimental to the tree canopy on the 52 acres than cluster development. Cluster development can be a preferred option for preserving environment and trees.


Dranesville Planning Commissioner John Ulfelder said the resolution against the development was premature. Here, Ulfelder talks after the meeting with GFCA’s Land Use and Zoning Chairman Jennifer Semko.

AN HOUR AND A HALF later, each Great Falls Citizens Association member had to weigh a complex set of facts, including the risk of opposing the plan, which could cause both sides to stop the dialogue.

“I have no doubt that the county will do their very best, but I don’t think that has relevance to us here tonight,” said member Donald “Phil” Whitworth.

“I have not heard one fact of common interest that this community is served by this going forward tonight,” he said. “Tonight is our obligation as a community that interest of one entity is not above the best interest of the group.”

Whitworth appreciated the effort of the citizens association to extensive study the proposal and issues to present enough information for the group to make an educated vote.

“It’s that kind of effort that makes me proud to be a member of this association,” said Whitworth.