|March 20, 2004
Ms. Nancy Hopkins
Commissioner, Dranesville District
Fairfax County Planning Commission
12000 Government Center Parkway, Suite 330
Fairfax, VA 22035-0042
Dear Ms. Hopkins:
I, and I believe others who attended the March 18 Fairfax County
Commission hearing on Winchester's Stockwell Manor development,
interest in appropriate measures to preserve Burke's Spring and
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
over the spring.
Nonetheless, concerns remain about adequacy of the final plan.
particularly true in light of the developer's concluding statement
at the March 18
hearing. It sounded persuasive on the surface, but reflection suggests
misleading, to say the least. It demonstrated almost obsessive resentment
the idea that Burke's Spring Branch is perennial. Over and over
developer argued that this watercourse is not perennial, while just
everyone at the hearing had learned from Frank Crandall that EQAC,
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
not survive more than a few hours without a constant flow of fresh
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
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
the stream is perennial.
The developer's comments also fly in the face of historical evidence
exacting research of Cathy Saunders showing that the spring (and
springhouse) was in regular use for agricultural purposes far back
into the 19th
century, and hence must have been perennial. Previously, at the
meeting of the McLean Citizens Association P&Z Committee, the
not even knowing the location of the spring until two weeks earlier.
together with use of the term "potential" with reference
to the springhouse and
the continued suggestion that the Frase farmhouse dates back only
1930s demonstrates carelessness on this matter. At the March 18
Frase, notwithstanding her obvious interest in having development
expeditiously, reported that the house dates to about 1807 and that
portion of the original remains.
The Fairfax Trail and Stream map that I distributed at the hearing
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
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
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
support those and others that would ensure preservation of sufficient
vegetation around the spring to maintain cultural and natural integrity.
is also of critical importance to see that new houses, roads, excavation,
piping, both during and after construction, do not interfere with
flow. Further monitoring, landscaping (cleaning, removal of nonnative
etc.), and other measures will be required on a long-term basis.
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
On the other side, we should ensure preservation of the outflow
maintain a natural belt of habitat through the middle of the development.
roadway passing over the outflow should be inclined away from (not
spring to improve environmental and aesthetic appeal. And, as Mr.
suggested, the outflow should not be channeled into a culvert or
pipe under the
road. Instead, a graceful arch bridge would protect stream habitat,
the charm of the spring site, and, I think, add immensely to the
Finally, I would note that the developer seemed so intent on battering
Burke's perenniality that no meaningful response was given for traffic
Notwithstanding a previously expressed willingness to support traffic
a stoplight, the developer will be responsible for dumping a thousand
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,
Chesterbrook Assisted Living facility, and continued growth at Tysons
points west. Everyone seems to be ignoring this elephant in the
Although the odds of it coming to pass are tiny, there is only
that would give reasonable hope for even partial satisfaction to
parties. That is to go back and re-plan the development as low density,
relatively small number of fine homes on large and naturally wooded
Such would greatly reduce the traffic impact, allow much more ability
preserve environmental and historical features, and, with a little
probably provide the developer with adequate profit.
Thank you again for your attention to our concerns.
2101 Greenwich Street
Falls Church, VA 22043
Ms. Joan DuBois, Supervisor - Dranesville
McLean Government Center
1437 Balls Hill Road
McLean, VA 22101