3-20-04 follow-up by Ron Nowak to Winchester PC hearing


Watershed Map & Areas of Interest/Concern

Historic Watershed Maps
  • Civil War Era
  • 1902
  • 1917
  • 1956

  • Activities
  • monitoring
  • cleanups
  • letters/testimony

  • Links & Sources

    Contact/Join Us

    you are here: home > activities > letters > 3-20-04 follow-up by Ron Nowak to Winchester PC hearing
    March 20, 2004

    Ms. Nancy Hopkins
    Commissioner, Dranesville District
    Fairfax County Planning Commission
    12000 Government Center Parkway, Suite 330
    Fairfax, VA 22035-0042

    Re: RZ/FDP-2003-DR-031

    Dear Ms. Hopkins:

    I, and I believe others who attended the March 18 Fairfax County Planning
    Commission hearing on Winchester's Stockwell Manor development, appreciate your
    interest in appropriate measures to preserve Burke's Spring and other
    historical and natural features of the area. Some of us also continue to be gratified
    by Winchester's apparent adjustment of the plan to avoid a street directly
    over the spring.

    Nonetheless, concerns remain about adequacy of the final plan. Such is
    particularly true in light of the developer's concluding statement at the March 18
    hearing. It sounded persuasive on the surface, but reflection suggests it was
    misleading, to say the least. It demonstrated almost obsessive resentment of
    the idea that Burke's Spring Branch is perennial. Over and over the
    developer argued that this watercourse is not perennial, while just minutes earlier
    everyone at the hearing had learned from Frank Crandall that EQAC, the most
    knowledgeable and objective body involved in the situation, had taken the position
    that the watercourse IS perennial. Moreover, everyone had just seen
    photographs of animal life that had been recently collected in the watercourse by Mr.
    Crandall and identified at the Smithsonian Institution as organisms that could
    not survive more than a few hours without a constant flow of fresh water.

    The developer made several nonsensical remarks regarding this matter,
    particularly: "The preponderance of critters out there are NOT those that require
    perenniality." If you think about it, that remark is a practical admission that
    the stream IS perennial. If, for example, 20 species were found in the area,
    and just a single one did require perenniality, that by itself would be proof
    the stream is perennial.

    The developer's comments also fly in the face of historical evidence and the
    exacting research of Cathy Saunders showing that the spring (and associated
    springhouse) was in regular use for agricultural purposes far back into the 19th
    century, and hence must have been perennial. Previously, at the February 3
    meeting of the McLean Citizens Association P&Z Committee, the developer claimed
    not even knowing the location of the spring until two weeks earlier. That,
    together with use of the term "potential" with reference to the springhouse and
    the continued suggestion that the Frase farmhouse dates back only to the
    1930s demonstrates carelessness on this matter. At the March 18 hearing, Ms.
    Frase, notwithstanding her obvious interest in having development proceed
    expeditiously, reported that the house dates to about 1807 and that a significant
    portion of the original remains.

    The Fairfax Trail and Stream map that I distributed at the hearing indicates
    only two other actively flowing surface springs remaining in the
    13-square-mile Pimmit watershed. Based on the map's data and my own observations, neither
    is in public view. Hence, Burke's three fountainheads seem the last chance
    for the entire watershed to keep a surface spring that is still active, in a
    relatively natural setting, and accessible to the public for reflection and
    education. In that regard, please note that this spring is within a short trail's
    walk from both Longfellow and Haycock schools.

    At the hearing, Mr. Crandall listed actions needed to protect the spring. I
    support those and others that would ensure preservation of sufficient land and
    vegetation around the spring to maintain cultural and natural integrity. It
    is also of critical importance to see that new houses, roads, excavation, and
    piping, both during and after construction, do not interfere with natural
    flow. Further monitoring, landscaping (cleaning, removal of nonnative vegetation,
    etc.), and other measures will be required on a long-term basis. What a
    terrible loss for all involved parties if we went to the expense and trouble to
    save the spring site, only to have flow stop because of adjacent development.

    On the other side, we should ensure preservation of the outflow stream to
    maintain a natural belt of habitat through the middle of the development. The
    roadway passing over the outflow should be inclined away from (not towards) the
    spring to improve environmental and aesthetic appeal. And, as Mr. Crandall
    suggested, the outflow should not be channeled into a culvert or pipe under the
    road. Instead, a graceful arch bridge would protect stream habitat, enhance
    the charm of the spring site, and, I think, add immensely to the value of
    associated properties.

    Finally, I would note that the developer seemed so intent on battering
    Burke's perenniality that no meaningful response was given for traffic issues.
    Notwithstanding a previously expressed willingness to support traffic studies and
    a stoplight, the developer will be responsible for dumping a thousand new
    vehicle trips per day onto an already badly congested bottleneck along Great Falls
    between Haycock and Hutchison (with associated danger and cut through
    nuisance). And add to that all the traffic to be generated by the new parking garage
    at West Falls Church Metro, the school expansion at George Mason, the
    Chesterbrook Assisted Living facility, and continued growth at Tysons Corner and
    points west. Everyone seems to be ignoring this elephant in the parlor.

    Although the odds of it coming to pass are tiny, there is only one answer
    that would give reasonable hope for even partial satisfaction to all interested
    parties. That is to go back and re-plan the development as low density, with a
    relatively small number of fine homes on large and naturally wooded lots.
    Such would greatly reduce the traffic impact, allow much more ability to
    preserve environmental and historical features, and, with a little innovation,
    probably provide the developer with adequate profit.

    Thank you again for your attention to our concerns.


    Ron Nowak
    2101 Greenwich Street
    Falls Church, VA 22043

    Copy to:
    Ms. Joan DuBois, Supervisor - Dranesville
    McLean Government Center
    1437 Balls Hill Road
    McLean, VA 22101

    Watershed Map & Areas of Interest/Concern
    Historic Watershed Maps Activities

    Links & Sources

    Contact/Join Us
    All items copyright © 2003-2005 Friends of Burke's Spring Branch unless another source is noted. Copyright for items with identified authorship remains with the author(s); historical and other documents reproduced here are, to the best knowledge of the webmaster, in the public domain. Items under Friends of Burke's Spring Branch copyright may be reproduced for nonprofit research or educational use as long as this copyright notice is included. Please direct comments and questions to Cathy Saunders.