|The Vulcan property, showing the proposed changes.|
Vulcan Materials Co. is seeking a rezoning so it can install a new concrete batching operation and replace and reorganize some of the buildings on its huge property on Industrial Drive near Interstate 395 in Springfield, and at some point in the future, construct an asphalt plant.
The asphalt plant raised some red flags among residents of Edsall Park and Spring Valley Forest during a meeting of the Mason District Land Use Committee (MDLUC) Feb. 27.
An asphalt plant will spew cancer-causing toxins into the air, even with filters, said Jack Grizzard of Mitchell Street, one of several residents who complained about the prospect of hazardous pollution. “I can’t believe Fairfax County will allow this so close to schools and neighborhoods,” he said.
“It’s a quality of life issue,” said Lundy Updike of Spring Valley Forest, who raised concerns about the possibility of more trucks, as well as pollution, if an asphalt plant is built. There are 10 to 25 trucks ignoring stop signs and speeding through the neighborhood every day already, she said.
The MDLUC didn’t take a position on the proposal, other than to agree that the asphalt plant not be considered until Vulcan provides more details. The committee also said more factual information is needed on the extent of the road blockages and the impact on access by emergency vehicles.
When the MDLUC discussed the proposal in January, several representatives of businesses complained that deliveries to and from Vulcan via Norfolk Southern railroad spur block Tiros Drive and Electronics Drive for as long as 45 minutes twice a day.
At the Feb. 27 meeting, Vulcan’s representative, Lori Greenlief, a senior land use planner at McGuire Woods, said the railroad pickups and deliveries stop traffic for only abut 12 or 13 minutes in the morning and 15 to 17 minutes around noon.
While there’s a state statute that prohibits standing trains from blocking a road for more than five minutes, Greenlief said that is pre-empted by a federal law and the only time the train is standing is during a mandatory safety check at Tiros Drive.
To address community concerns about the railcars, she said Vulcan would post signs about the delivery schedule and set up a committee of local business owners and residents.
That’s not enough, according to business owners. One man with 100 employees said the streets are blocked for 45 minutes during lunchtime, preventing people from getting back to work on time. That results in 20 to 60 hours of lost production time every week, he said.
Corey Rodgerson, the owner of Climate Heating and Cooling, called the train blockage a safety issue. There was a car fire on Feb. 26, he said, and if the roads were blocked, emergency vehicles couldn’t get through.
“The notion of a warning sign is absurd. They have to eliminate the problem,” said Bob Perotti, of Hadeed In-Home and Office Cleaning Services.
Greenlief noted that Norfolk Southern policies require trains to move out of the way or decouple if emergency vehicles need to get through. When pressed on the need for a permanent solution, she said moving the tracks or adding an overpass would not be financially feasible.
Jay Rodenbeck of the Fairfax County Planning and Zoning staff, which approved the proposed project, said fire stations are warned in advance when the roads will be blocked.
“Vulcan hasn’t budged very much,” said J. Patrick Taves, an attorney working on Arlington County’s proposal to build a $25 million bus maintenance facility on Electronic Drive. “Vulcan is asking for a blank check from this committee,” he said, noting that the company isn’t addressing the access, blockage, or safety issues.
Arlington isn’t backing out of the project but is concerned about the added costs if buses are stuck waiting for trains, Taves said. “We hope to get some reasonable accommodation.”
The Fairfax County Planning and Zoning staff recommended the Vulcan project be approved, with one major exception: The staff rejected Vulcan’s request of a waiver of a requirement for a trail through the property. The company wants to build a sidewalk on the edge of the property instead.