Autumn on Lake Audobon

Autumn on Lake Audobon
Autumn on Lake Audubon, Photo by Alison Kamat

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Reston 20/20 Testimony on South Lakes High School Addition



 Statement of Terry Maynard, Reston 20/20 Committee re
Proposed FCPS Addition to South Lakes High School
Fairfax County Board of Supervisors
October 20, 2015


Good evening Chairman Bulova and members of the Board.  I am Terry Maynard, 2217 Wakerobin Lane, Reston, Virginia, and I am here representing the Reston 20/20 Committee, a committee of community volunteers that strives to protect the vision and planning principles laid out for Reston by the late Bob Simon and encapsulated in the Comprehensive Plan. 

I am here this evening to speak specifically about the proposed addition to South Lakes High School, a school just one block from my home.  There is absolutely no doubt that the classroom space that the School Board seeks is needed.  What is not needed, however, is the added destruction of neighboring private properties from the increased stormwater runoff the project will create, and ultimately the added pollution of the Chesapeake Bay.

As noted in the staff report accompanying the School Board’s proposal, FCPS has sought and received a waiver grandfathering its use of old and inadequate stormwater management standards, not the tougher standards you legislated last year.  The result will be additional stormwater runoff into the swale on the east side of South Lakes High School that drains from FCPS property under South Lakes Drive and into a stream between the residential areas downstream, specifically Cedar Cove cluster and Wakerobin Lane.  (See attached overview image.)

The experience of both downstream neighborhoods has been that each addition to the high school, including parking lots, has added to the stormwater flows from the east side of the high school property, especially during storms.  The stream from South Lakes High School’s property has turned a once smooth ravine floor with lush plant life into a 3-6 foot deep, 6-10 foot wide gash that floods out of its banks with each major storm along its 1,000 foot length and 30’ foot drop. 

While FCPS cites costs as the driver of its decision to stick with the old, ineffective stormwater management techniques and standards, there are dollar costs for the County, RA, and homeowners for FCPS not doing what it can to prevent damage.  Specifically:

  •  DPWES has already spent tens of thousands of dollars preventing and repairing leaks in its sewer line that runs the length of the creek.  It has deposited rip-rap three times in different places along the creek over the years, including backfilling a 12’ deep, 300’ long washout at the outlet of the stream that exposed two sewer lines.  DPWES also had to make emergency repairs this July when its sewer line ruptured, resulting in at least 100 gallons of raw sewage spilling into the stream and lake.   Now, DPWES is assessing the stream for a complete stormwater remediation project at a cost we can only guess will exceed a million dollars if it is approved. 
  • Reston Association is planning to clear scores of mature trees on its property in the ravine to prevent future sewer line breakages from fallen trees, a cost that will reach into the tens of thousands of dollars.  And it has cleared many such trees in the past.
  • Homeowners have paid to double-wrap their laterals in an effort to reduce the risk that one of them may break at a cost of a couple of thousand dollars each.  One Wakerobin resident had to remove a gazebo on her property that had been undermined by the expanding stream bed.  RA is also planning to require that homeowners remove their trees that may fall into the creek at a likely cost exceeding one to several thousand dollars per household depending on how many trees are removed.

 All these costs stem from the stormwater flows coming from South Lakes High School property. 

And all of this may blow back on the County.  An attorney has pointed out to Reston 20/20 that, by discharging additional stormwater onto downstream private property without permission, FCPS may have committed trespass and may be responsible for the damages it has caused and will cause by the discharge of additional stormwater from the proposed project.  The trespass could result in a suit by RA or individual homeowners for injunctive relief, damages, and the requirement to undertake the required restoration caused by its unauthorized actions.  He added that the inadequacy of the FCPS plans for the school addition could also compromise the integrity of any related County bonding action. 

That said, Reston 20/20 strongly recommends that the Board of Supervisors defer a decision on the South Lakes High School addition proposal until the County Attorney has provided a legal opinion that the FCPS proposal to implement a minimal stormwater management program does not create an unnecessary legal or financial risk for the County.   In the meantime, we believe the Board should also press FCPS to be a responsible Reston community partner and environmental steward in addressing the problem it created, consistent with its own Student Achievement Goal #3 (“Demonstrate Responsibility to the Community and the World”) and Reston’s Planning Principle #2 (“Planning will provide for environmental sustainability and green technology.  Natural resources and ecosystems, including natural areas, will be protected and restored. . . .”)  With a true “best practices” stormwater management plan for its proposed addition, FCPS can reduce any legal threat and demonstrate its commitment to the Reston community. 

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