|This ditch on Elizabeth Johnson' yard is supposed to capture stormwater runnoff.|
Elizabeth Johnson has seen a lot of flooding since she moved to her house on Beverly Street in Annandale Acres in 1950. The county put in a rock-lined ditch on the corner of her lot decades ago, but it overflows with water during heavy rains. She described how her basement floods at least once a year, as she flipped through a scrapbook with photos showing what looks like a torrential river flowing through her yard.
The flooding has gotten worse since a housing development was built off Degroff Court on the other side of Backlick Road several years ago, Johnson says.
Residents of Annandale Acres and the next-door community of Wilburdale are concerned that construction of another nine houses next to those homes will exacerbate the flooding.
Homeowners have repeatedly complained to county officials about the problem. “They say they are going to do this and they say they are going to do that, and nothing is ever accomplished,” Johnson says, while leafing through many copies of letters she’s sent to county officials.
The developer of those six houses on Degroff put in a dry pond, but it hasn’t adequately prevented flooding in Annandale Acres. Two separate solutions have been under discussion to mitigate the flooding problem: expanding that pond and putting in a larger conduit for managing runoff in Annandale Acres.
|The dry pond at Degroff Court.|
Despite the stormwater problems, the county approved a plan for an additional development on Degroff Court. Leaders of the Annandale Acres and Wilburdale communities complain that county officials failed to notify them about that impending development until it was already approved and are now refusing to work with them on a solution to mitigate the flooding.
The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved a rezoning request Sept. 13, 2011, to rezone a 3.17-acre property from R-2 to PDH-5 to clear the way for UPIA LLC to build nine single-family houses and incorporate them into a home owners association (HOA) with the six existing houses, which were built by another developer in 1998. A small house on the site will be torn down.
When the county considered the rezoning request, “the county made minimal effort to contact us,” Clark says. At the time, he says, the community had “a less active president” who didn’t call a community meeting to discuss the issue, and “we didn’t find out until it was too late.”
The meetings that Clark did attend “were all dog and pony shows after the fact,” he says. “They clearly were not designed to receive information, only evince the message: ‘We did outreach.’” He believes people likely to be vigorously opposed were deliberately not invited.
|House on Degroff Court.|
“We’ve repeatedly requested a meeting with Penny Gross on stormwater problems. They won’t meet with us,” added Kate Sriwardene, president of the Wilburdale Civic Association and land use chair of the Mason District Council.
A July 3 letter from Penny Gross to Clark acknowledges that a stormwater project for Annandale Acres has been under discussion since the late 1980s. A few years ago, the county offered to address the flooding problem by creating a larger conduit along Calvert Street, but one homeowner, Richard Singletary, refused to grant an easement, and still won’t cooperate.
Clark believes the existence of a single holdout has given the county an excuse for not taking further action. “It’s really obvious they are stalling,” he says.
Annandale Acres has urged the county to use its powers of eminent domain, but Gross’s July 3 letter says localities’ ability to use eminent domain in Virginia is very limited.
The conduit would be helpful but it wouldn’t completely solve the problem, Clark says. In fact, it would likely divert the water farther down to the Wilburdale community. And while UPIA agreed to enlarge the existing dry pond on Degroff Court, “the real solution is up on that hill,” he says.
He believes a larger pond will help, but thinks it should also collect stormwater runoff from the Heritage Village townhouses further up the hill.
Clark has asked the county to consider installing a 40 to 50-foot pipe to divert water from the townhouses to the new, larger pond, but says, while UPIA agreed to consider doing something like that, it is not allowed under the county’s facilities manual.
“I’ve just been stonewalled on that completely. The county doesn’t seem to be listening to anyone,” Clark says. If this doesn’t happen, “what a discredit it would be to good governance if the county is so intractable as to be incapable of taking advantage of such a win-win opportunity as we have here. We will never get an opportunity like this again.”
UPIA has agreed to explore voluntary solutions after the site plan is approved, Gross notes in the July 3 letter, but adds, “it is important to understand that any effort by Fairfax County to impose requirements upon the UPIA developer beyond those identified in the county’s Public Facilities Manual would be deemed arbitrary and capricious and both unenforceable and subject to legal challenge.”
She says UPIA’s stormwater plans meet the county’s requirements and “will provide a proportional improvement within the watershed and reduce the peak flows and velocity of water coming off the 3.17-acre UPIA site for two-year and 10-year storms.”
The letter indicates that the developer of a three-acre site shouldn’t be responsible for addressing drainage concerns in a 72-acre drainage shed.
“I am astonished that Penny Gross admits that there have been stormwater issues since the 1980s,” says Sriwardene, “but instead of assisting existing neighborhoods, they have approved new developments which have put stress on already-compromised neighborhoods.”
She notes that the developer will likely be subject to lots of proffers, which will benefit the county, but “Annandale Acres is not going to be the recipient of any of those funds.”
“The county does not profit from fixing the stormwater mess they have created through infill and over-development,” Sriwardene says. “However, they do profit greatly from allowing rezoning and collecting on the money promised through proffers and through the added tax revenue gained by stuffing too many houses on a small piece of land.”