Autumn on Lake Audobon

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

Friday, February 26, 2016

Why Poop on Hunter Mill?


Last Thursday evening, Reston-area residents were entertained by a County consultant on why a septage storage facility should be moved from Dranesville District to Hunter Mill District in a meeting hosted by Hunter Mill District Supervisor Cathy Hudgins.    Local online newspaper RestonNow covered it the following day in an article entitled, “Residents: Sewage Site Should Not Find New Home on Hunter Mill Road,” with the lede:  “Keep the poop out of the parkland and off of Hunter Mill Road.” 

The session insulted most attendees with its lack of serious research and analysis.  The argument for re-locating the septage storage at Lake Fairfax County Park was weak and incomplete, starting with the fact that Hunter Mill Rd. is compromised with a one-lane, low-capacity bridge to the immediate north of the site and another flood prone bridge to the south of Dulles Toll Road (near Hunter Station Rd.)—both of which have washed out in recent years.   Residents soon discovered the process of relocating the septage storage from the Colvin Run area to Lake Fairfax Park is being driven by residents near the current site who want to move it somewhere else, and sought the help of Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust,.  Somehow, he couldn’t find some place in all of his district—which produces most of the septage in the north County area—to re-locate the septage storage, and Supervisor Hudgins just rolled over at his request. 

One of the bogeymen presented by the County consultant was that the Colvin Mill Run site is prone to flooding into the pipe where the septage is deposited (and, thereby, leaks into the Chesapeake Bay stormwater drainage area—a big no-no).  Yet, for minimal expense, the pipe’s length could be extended vertically above flooding levels, solving the problem.   (And, BTW, were there no floods in the area before the Colvin Mill location was built three decades ago???)

The presentation did not even include the costs of building a new facility at the Lake Fairfax location, nor did it compare the costs of improving the Colvin Run Mill location or moving the site elsewhere.  In a County that claims it is budget strapped, building a new facility of any type seems like a much more expensive alternative than improving an existing facility. 

Moreover, the consultant and County staff could not coherently answer most of the pertinent questions posed by the audience.   As reported by Restonian Confidential Restonian Operative "Mark",  a number of residents’ questions were either not answered or answered weakly by Hudgins, County staff, and the consultant:

While the existing site was considered in the study, it was clear that moving--not modernizing--was the grand plan from the answers given on the Colvin Mill site.

For the record, were there ANY EPA or State violations for this site? A forced and awkward "No" came from Wastewater Management.

Could they state the number of times the site was flooded? Uh, No

Could they raise the intake pipe? Cap the intake pipe to (the existing storage) contain any flood-inducing leaks?

Could septic be pumped into a closed system? You folks weren't supposed to helping us problem solve here…

Had they considered moving the trail away from the facilities fence? Nope

Regarding the proposed Lake Fairfax site:

1) How could Hunter Mill Road be called a major road when it was windy, hilly, had a one lane bridge and had daily half-mile back ups.  Imagine idling in traffic behind 22 septic trucks making 44 trips to and from Lake Fairfax. Well it's a 25 mph road... no, I don't know how fast a septic truck can go uphill across a 1 lane bridge from a dead stop.  With a little help from the audience, the junior engineer was able to confirm that math but not the vomit inducing stench.

2) You refer to a dated 10 year old traffic plan - did you consider the new private high school being built, new corporate campus on Sunset Hills, and that new Silver Line Metro that's being extended out to Dulles?  There’s no data too outdated to use to prove their case.

3) Pictures shown cut out or obscured the curvy road, one lane bridge, pedestrian crossing - We might have driven by there once or twice?

4) Signage shows the bridge's weight limit which would not likely carry a full loaded septic truck - No comment.

You need to read this Restonian post in its entirety.  There is much more to digest, if you can!

. . . and so the meeting went.  In fact, tempers flared at one point that some County employees felt the need to line the front of the room in front of Supervisor Hudgins. 

The most obvious conclusion to come out of the meeting was that the County and the consultant did an incredibly poor job of studying the Hunter Mill Road location it chose (and probably the others).  In fact, the presenter, comments by County staff, and even by the Supervisor gave the impression that the deal was done no matter how absurd the justification.  Of course, Hudgins said this was not the case—but there was absolutely no commitment by her or anyone else to return to the community (or another community) with a revised—and much better—analysis of options, including improving the current site. 

A number of residents at the meeting captured Supervisor Hudgins’ apparent lack of interest in the community’s concerns.  She came across as defensive and seemed shocked that people were so upset with the proposal.  She did not give the impression that she was there to represent her constituents.

So we wonder why Supervisor Hudgins has agreed to this pathetic proposal:

  1. What does she (or better, but less likely, Reston) get in return for this septage storage facility relocation to Lake Fairfax Park?
  2. Is this Supervisor Hudgins’ payback to the Hunter Mill Defense League (HMDL), a group of residents in the Hunter Mill Road area who have opposed any changes in the roadway, zoning, or other development initiatives in the area (including some Reston 20/20 has supported). 
  3. Does the Park Authority or any other Fairfax County dept. garner a new (or larger) revenue flow from trucks that dump their sewage at a new monitored Hunter Mill location?
  4. Will the Park Authority be compensated handsomely by the Dept of Public Works and Environmental Services for loss of park land?

Our answer is, “We don’t know.”  Nonetheless, it is clear that some unknown factor is driving Supervisor Hudgins to readily accept such a ridiculously incomplete analysis for putting a north county septage storage facility a Lake Fairfax Park on Hunter Mill Road.

Our view:  The majority of the septage collected by haulers is generated by the businesses  and residents in the Dranesville District, few of whom are hooked up to the County’s sewer system.   If the county wants to provide a state-of-the-art septage disposal dump, Colvin Run or a nearby location on a MAJOR road (which Hunter Mill is NOT due to bridge limitations, hills, curves and severe traffic back-ups) must be selected.  Hunter Mill District taxpayers are NOT going to accept this dangerous and inappropriate location for Colvin Mill’s poop dump!  Sorry, Supervisor Foust.  Hunter Mill is tired of being dumped on by you and, sadly, our own Supervisor. 

Enough is enough.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Re-thinking Tall Oaks as a Village Center, Terry Maynard, Reston 20/20



Re-thinking Tall Oaks as a Village Center
Terry Maynard, Reston 20/20 Committee
February 23, 2016


As this is being written, Jefferson Apartment Group (JAG) has a redevelopment application proposal before the County’s Department of Planning and Zoning (DPZ) to rebuild Tall Oaks Village Center as a residential cluster.  As shown in the diagram below (Figure 1), it would comprise three types of residential housing:  44 townhouses, 42 “2 over 2” townhomes dwelling units, and two condominium buildings (70 units total) along the Wiehle side of the complex. 

Figure 1:  JAG Layout Proposal for Redevelopment of Tall Oaks Village Center


As shown above, besides these 156 dwelling units, JAG proposes a very small green space about the width of a boulevard median strip and two small retail buildings (less than 4,000 GSF each) to flesh out its redevelopment.    
Otherwise, the so-called village center is crammed with housing and asphalt.  It does not in any sense of the County’s Comprehensive Plan, meet the criteria for a Reston “village center.”

Reston 20/20 believes Tall Oaks can become a vibrant village center through some relatively simple changes that have a major impact on its configuration without losing a single dwelling unit (156 allowed).  That change entails the following:
  •  Scrapping the so-called “2 over 2” townhomes (42 dwelling units)
  • Not building the row of townhouses closest to the village center entrance (8 units)
  • Not building the proposed small amount of retail space (less than 10,000 GSF), less than currently is operating at the shopping center. 
The key to the change is building two more essentially identical condominium buildings at the south and east side of a much larger green space or plaza (or both) in the middle of the village center, including a stage and entry fountain.   An additional first floor of each of these buildings would be retail space surrounding the square that would total roughly 49,000 GSF, enough to make this a viable retail area.   Moreover, the two added condominium buildings would mean a net—and excess—gain of 20 dwelling units that would need to be eliminated in any of several ways (larger condos, cut one floor of condo units if feasible, reduce townhouse construction, or some combination of these).  Parking for this retail would be achieved by adding another level of underground parking to all four buildings, a total of 242 additional parking spots plus at least 50 street-level parking spots (about 290 required) around the plaza/square.  This is depicted below with the altered roadways in black. 

Figure 2:  Alternative Layout Proposal for Tall Oaks Village Center