Say NO to townhomes in Dogue Creek floodplain

8800 Richmond Highway, Dec. 2017

Just north of the Richmond Highway crossing over Dogue Creek and just west of the Sacramento shopping center, 8800 Richmond Highway has long been an eyesore and detriment to the community. But behind the overgrowth lies Pole Road Park, surrounded by, and inaccessible through, privately held property. The parcel along the highway is zoned commercial, and to its north lie two parcels zoned residential, 2 dwelling units per acre. All three parcels are almost entirely in the Chesapeake Bay Resource Protection Area and the 100-year floodplain. They are recognized as part of the Dogue Creek Environmental Quality Corridor, which is protected by Fairfax County's Comprehensive Plan and several ordinances.

At a July 19th public hearing, the Planning Commission heard a proposal to amend the Comprehensive Plan to allow 43 townhomes to be built on the property. County policy holds that such encroachment should only be allowed in extraordinary circumstances, and only where environmental benefits clearly outweigh harms. Approving this amendment would set a precedent opening the door to development in currently protected riparian areas and floodplains on Dogue Creek, Little Hunting Creek, and all over the county. If this Plan Amendment is passed, you might as well rip up the Comprehensive Plan's environmental policies and several county ordinances intended to protect streams and riparian areas.

Betsy Martin, President of the Friends of Little Hunting Creek testified against granting the amendment. See her testimony here. So did Friends of Accotink Creek and the Northern Virginia Conservation Trust. The county staff report strongly recommends against the plan amendment. Neighbors who want to see the property improved, and proponents who stand to profit from the development, testified in favor of the amendment. The Commission seemed ambivalent, and postponed a decision until September 13th.

Pole Road Park

The best use of the property at 8800 Richmond Highway is as public access to Pole Road Park, Dogue Creek and its wetlands north and south of the highway, areas that are virtually inaccessible now. Pole Road Park really should be a water trail and site for birding and fishing, and 8800 would be the perfect public access point.

Just imagine—the commercially zoned parcel at 8800 Richmond Highway could be developed as a canoe livery/parking area/bait and tackle shop/concession stand or restaurant. People could launch there to canoe or kayak north to explore Pole Road Park. Once the new high Richmond Highway bridge over Dogue Creek is installed, people could voyage south to the Grist Mill (perhaps beyond), and return to the restaurant at 8800 for a beer or a meal while looking out over the woods and wetlands behind the property. It could be an Old Angler's Inn in our own backyards—except, it would be enhanced by access to historical sites, such as the Grist Mill.

Proponents argue that this townhome development will help revitalize the Richmond Highway Corridor. However, it is inconsistent with the Embark Richmond Highway plan. The Corridor is already underserved in terms of parks. The Embark plan says that 38 additional acres of parkland will be needed to serve the anticipated 40,000 new residents in the Corridor. It would be far better to develop this uniquely situated property in a way that preserves and improves recreational access to the exceptional natural and historical features of the Corridor, which are currently degraded and ignored. That sort of development would better serve local residents and do more for the local economy than building yet another townhome development. How will $800,000 townhomes help local residents?

Dogue Creek needs friends!

Please let the Planning Commissioners and Supervisor Storck know that you oppose Plan Amendment 2018-IV-MV2 to allow residential development at 8800 Richmond Highway.

Send comments to plancom@fairfaxcounty.gov before September 13, and cc dan.storck@fairfaxcounty.gov. If you're a resident of the Mount Vernon District, say so.