|Preliminary grading had already started on this lot on Woodlark Drive.|
The committee was established by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors to review applications for development activities within Resource Protection Areas (RPAs).
Following a lengthy, highly technical discussion, the ERC voted Dec. 12 to deny an application for a single-family house on an undeveloped wooded lot with an RPA submitted by real estate investor Sheila Konecke, the owner of a HomeVestors franchise. The lot is just outside the beltway in the Braddock District.
In rejecting Konecke’s application, the ERC passed a motion stating that there are numerous problems with the proposal and that there were no assurances that the construction of a house on that lot wouldn’t lead to the degradation of water quality.
One of the ERC’s major problems with the application had to do with a proposal to bring in 1,900 cubic yards (300 truckloads) of dirt into the RPA on top of poor soil that is already saturated. There were also concerns about a stream on the property that could be subject to erosion and sediment issues.
The ERC did not agree with the assertions of the applicant’s engineering consultants that their proposal for a swale on the property would be effective in capturing sediment and protecting the watershed.
“Our goal is to protect water quality,” said ERC Chair Chris Koerner, and this application would not do that.
Koerner called the proposal an “unusual, complicated application that may well be precedent setting.” There are three other unimproved lots on Woodlark Drive that could also be subject to development if the ERC approved Konecke’s application.
According to Koerner, the ERC hears only one or two of these cases a year, but that could increase as the amount of land available for development shrinks.
Following the ERC vote, Greg Budnik, a civil engineer who represents the applicant, said Konecke hasn’t decided whether to pursue an appeal. He noted that county land development staff had previously endorsed the application.
A couple of the ERC members suggested Konecke revise her plans and propose a house with a smaller footprint, but Budnik, said the house should fit in with the rest of the Fairfax Hills community. “We are trying to make this as small as possible. To reduce this further would be treating the applicant unreasonably.”
Konecke’s attempt to develop the Woodlark Drive lot has been going on for nearly two years. The proposal has been complicated by a lawsuit filed by a neighbor aimed at enforcing a decades-old deed on the property that requires a 75-foot front yard setback. That made it more difficult to fit a house on the property without having an impact on the RPA.
In a ruling on the lawsuit, the Fairfax County Circuit Court issued a preliminary injunction in July 2017 prohibiting construction of a house within 75 feet of the front yard.
Koerner suggested that Konecke could try to meet with the Fairfax Hills community association to get them to reduce the 75-foot setback. But Budnick said community residents are not interested in meeting with her, noting that they spent more than $20,000 to fight this.