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Monday, August 31, 2015

Illegal infill development would destroy our neighborhood

Malbrook residents are fighting Evergreene's plan to develop on this site.
By Darren Gruendel

An article published in the Annandale Blog Aug. 18 describes how residents of the Malbrook subdivision are fighting a developer’s plans to built eight houses on a small lot in defiance of the community’s legal covenants.

If this project goes forward, the developer, Evergreene Homes, is likely to pursue the development of an adjacent 10-acre plot. As the amount of undeveloped land in Mason District continues to shrink, other homeowner groups can expect to face similar battles with developers. Let’s hope they have either covenants or good standing with the county.

While the previous article covered the complicated Malbrook situation in depth, I would like to add a few clarifications:

(1) Flooding was terrible – even during normal rains – even before Evergreene clear cut the four-acre Woo property at the end of Brooks Place. During the rain shower on the fourth of July, water rushed down Malbrook Drive and Crosswoods Drive [as shown in the video below]. What will it be like when the entire area is developed?



(2) The road disruption will also continue. VDOT mandated 30-foot-wide roads with sidewalks for Brooks Place due to the projected increase in traffic volume of 390 trips a day. The only question is when Glavis Road, Malbrook Drive, Crossroads Drive, and Dearborn Drive will be widened to carry the new loads. All those additional vehicles have to go somewhere, so Lake Barcroft as well as Malbrook residents can expect a lot of road projects on their streets.  

(3) The Malbrook residents are just defending their contractually protected neighborhood. Malbrook is one of the last places where you can find one-acre lots with mature trees inside the beltway. Make no mistake, the narrow streets and mature trees are only there because, for the past 70 years, the covenants have prevented the kind of rampant development that happens when developers are allowed to do whatever they feel will make them the most money. We cannot subdivide and sell off our land. We need approval if we want to put up a fence, and we can’t build up to the setback limits. Most important, we cannot do anything that “may become a nuisance or annoyance to the neighborhood.”

What we can do is limit access to our subdivision by preventing Malbrook homeowners from granting easements or using property for roads. We won’t let Evergreene ruin the neighborhood just because the company sees more profit by following outdated environmental standards and doesn’t want to pay more to create an additional access point. 

Evergreene knew full well what it was getting into – and engineered the whole thing. The Woo family, the former owners of the four-acre property on Brooks Place, couldn’t find a way around the covenants even though they had 20 years of experience in real estate development. It was Evergreene’s attorneys who worked a scheme to provide Fairfax County with both a self-generated legal opinion “validating” the construction plan and protection under Evergreene’s insurance policies in the event there was a lawsuit. What is the definition of “conflict of interest”?

Evergreene then bought the property under a “special warranty deed” that allows them to pursue the old plan under grandfathered 2008 environmental standards that would never pass today. If the properties can’t handle the water today, what will 2008 standards do? What possible public good comes from letting a developer build under obsolete standards that were in place six years before they bought a property?    

Evergeene's construction crew crashed into Gen. Smith's mailbox. [Photo by Darren Gruendel]
(4) Evergreene’s recklessness shows its disdain for the neighborhood. The company sent contractors out during an ice storm last winter to try and race ahead of our newly filed injunction, and they cut down the trees before we could stop them. They crashed their truck, destroying a mailbox and some shrubs on the property of retired Air Force General William Y. Smith. 

Gen. Smith, who has walked his quiet street in Malbrook since 1968 with a cane after losing a portion of his leg in Korea, has two Marines and a whole team of outraged residents on his side in this fight. Evergreene picked the wrong neighborhood to try and bulldoze. 

Darren Gruendel is a resident of the Malbrook community.

13 comments:

  1. In addition to being irresponsible, isn't clear cutting illegal?

    Why wasn't someone looking after the interests of the community rather than the developers?

    "Special warranty deeds", 2008 environmental standards for developers when regular residents require County permission to put up a fence in the front yard or increase the size of their driveway.

    What happened to equal application and enforcement of the law?

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  2. While I'm sympathetic to your points, you can't stop progress. Land owners should have the right to use their land however they see fit unless that use would have a clear and demonstrably detrimental effect on surrounding property. All the points you make can and should be addressed by the developers prior to their proceeding with the project. But none seem like deal-breakers.

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    1. Not trying to stop "progress;" only the violation of contract rights and bad policy. If you need a wide road for legal, safe access and you can't turn a driveway into a wide enough road without the consent of the neighborhood, well then, you can't have legal access. They can of course go direct to Sleepy Hollow through a deal with the Church or Mrs Glavis - a much shorter route that wouldn't violate anyone's rights. So, yes, if they want to pay for legal access, they can develop, just not through here. And while they are at it, how about making them build to modern standards of erosion and storm water control. - DG

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    2. Our present District Supervisor and County Council should not permit a developer to violate county ordinances nor state law.

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  3. Seems like one bunch of millionaires arguing with another bunch of millionaires.

    The sad lives of the 1%. Call Mitt Romney or Jeb!, they might care.

    I concur with "bailey's res."

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    1. Interesting that you purport to know the bank account details of everyone involved. You must be a psychic.

      Even more interesting is that you seem to believe people's rights somehow less important or valid depending on how much money you believe they have.

      I sincerely hope you are never in a position of power or influence.

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  4. It's too bad we have people like the above commentators who are too lazy to fight to save a neighborhood. You guys just sit back and drink your beer and when developers knock your door we know you will sell and to hell with your neighbors.

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  5. This is not about millionaires fighting each other, it is about an overzealous government looking for tax revenue while trampling on the rights of the people they represent. This should concern everyone!

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    1. Agreed. This BOS has pursued increased tax revenue at any neighborhood 's quality-of-life expense.

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  6. 7 Corners 79/1/15, 7:57 AM

    I am not sure what this has to do with the government trampling on people or why people do not think other people should care.

    More developments like this would kill the unique Lake Barcroft area. I am not anti development but there are other areas that could use improvement more behind Cullmore or off of Columbia Pike.

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  7. There is a Linda Glavis who is a Warren County Supervisor and colleague of Penny Gross. Is she related to the Glavis family that owns the 10 acres? I read a Northern Virginia Daily article about her election that said, "Glavis and her brother-in-law also run a construction contracting business in the county."

    If that’s her, maybe we do know why they are planning 400 vehicles a day through Barcroft.

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    1. Linda is the wife of George Glavis who is the eldest son of Margot. The land is in a family trust. The plans clearly show vehicles coming from "future" development on Glavis to Barcroft through Malbrook instead of directly to Sleepy Hollow. No one will talk about why, but the plans are what they are. - DG

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