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Monday, December 3, 2018

Committee to rule on whether a home can be built in a flood zone in Annandale

4104 Woodlark Drive.
Fairfax County officials are considering a proposal to build a home in Annandale on a property subject to flooding.

The project, at 4104 Woodlark Drive, would disturb more than 2,500 square feet of a resource protection area (RPA), so it’s up to the Chesapeake Bay Preservation Ordinance Exception Review Committee (ERC) to decide whether to approve it. The ERC is holding a hearing on the proposal Dec. 12.

Less than a handful of cases like this come up in a year, but proposals to build in RPAs could become more of an issue as the amount of land available for development keeps shrinking, especially in the more built-out areas of Fairfax County.

Several environmental activists and the Braddock District Land Use and Environment Committee opposed the project at an earlier hearing because of a concern that it could set a precedent for allowing more development in flood zones. There are three other undeveloped properties on Woodlark Drive.

The Woodlark case would not set a precedent, says Anne Cissel, spokesperson for the county’s Land Development Services, because, “each case is unique and considered on its merits.” The extent of the RPA encroachment, the constraints of each piece of land, and the efforts by applicants to mitigate the impact on the RPA are taken into account in each case, she says.

The Woodlark Drive situation is complicated, but here’s a brief summary:

Sheila Konecke, the owner of a HomeVestors franchise, bought the unimproved lot on Woodlark Drive in the Fairfax Hills subdivision just outside the beltway in 2015 for $330,000 with a plan to build a single-family home there even though 80 percent of the property is in an RPA.

In May 2016, county staff administratively approved an exception to the county’s Chesapeake Bay Preservation Ordinance allowing for the construction of a 1,700-square foot home in the RPA but at least 50 feet from the stream that runs through the property.

Konecke subsequently began clearing trees in accordance with an approved grading plan.

A neighbor, S. Richard Rio Jr., then sued, citing a deed approved decades ago that requires a 75-foot front yard setback. In July 2017, the Fairfax County Circuit Court issued a preliminary injunction prohibiting the construction of a building within 75 feet of the front yard.
There is an alternative to developing in a flood zone. Landowners can seek a conservation easement from the Northern Virginia Conservation Trust and qualify for a tax break.
Konecke then revised the plan and requested an exception to the RPA rules citing a provision in the Chesapeake Bay Preservation Ordinance that allows an exception based on “loss of buildable area.” Approval of the exception would allow the house to be located less than 50 feet from the stream but beyond the 75-foot setback.

On Dec. 6, 2017, the ERC held a public hearing and deferred a decision to Feb. 7, 2018. At that point, the ERC denied the request, as the lawsuit was still pending. The parties subsequently settled out of court.

On March 8, 2018, Konecke filed an appeal of the ERC decision, based on the argument that the ERC acted outside of its jurisdiction. She urged the Board of Supervisors to overturn the ERC decision and approve the exception. It was on the board agenda for the June 19, 2018, board meeting but the application was withdrawn at the last minute.

Konecke is now requesting the ERC allow the project to go forward and is expected to submit revised plans to reduce the house’s footprint in the flood zone, says Marcia Pape, senior legislative assistant for land use in the office of Braddock Supervisor John Cook.

The Chesapeake Bay Preservation Ordinance allows the ERC to approve an exception for loss of buildable area in an RPA where the total disturbance is limited to 10,000 square feet with no more than 5,000 square feet of impervious area within the RPA. The applicant proposes 7,568 square feet of disturbed area and 2,711 square feet of impervious area.


10 comments:

DCC said...

FYI, an area covered by an RPA is not the same as a flood-prone area. Sometimes, but not always, these areas overlap. Fairfax County website has a mapping tool that shows what properties are in an RPA and / or a FEMA Flood Hazard Area. That tool shows 4104 Woodlark is in an RPA but not a FEMA flood zone.

Anonymous said...

When land sits undeveloped for so many years floodplain maps are not always updated properly until they are developed and reassessed. The 75' setback requirement and the applicant's own documentation places this "house" in a minor floodplain. There is plenty of documentation that this area handles volumes of water. There is a tributary to Accotink Creek that runs through this property with a steep hillside along one perimeter of it meaning the water has nowhere else to go but to this and the adjacent lots.

Anonymous said...

Better hurry up and develop it before some 55+ housing or a homeless shelter ends up there.

Anonymous said...

Call it whatever you want. Building there is a DUMB idea that will likely cause far-reaching problems not just for those homeowners, but for people nearby, the environment, and wildlife.

Anonymous said...

RPA regulations on land within the designated area seem to be waived
regardless of the lots suitability for development, proximity to a body of water, existing set back requirements or destruction of existing trees and vegetation. It appears all you have to do is request a waiver which begs the question. Why have regulations at all?

Anonymous said...

It does seem that way. Developers have a lock on our entire land use process under the misguided guise of encouraging economic development. So we are developing office buildings despite the vacancy rate at existing sites, building in floodplains, and encouraging new housing with the hope of throwing in some affordable housing as a compromise. And the lack of quality of life we all see coming at us is ignored. It isn't enough we sit in traffic for hours while our brilliant "urban planners" are planning our way to hell. Instead of creating charming communities everyone wants to live it they are creating the old city models that invite all their problems with them. They all need to get out of decision making roles and work more with their communities. This system needs to be broken and restarted.

Anonymous said...

I encourage anyone who thinks it's a bad idea to allow building in a Resource Protection Area to come to the special exception meeting on December 12 (in the Herrity Building, first floor). Even better, request to be a speaker in opposition to this project. The builder knew what she was getting into when she bought the property as an investment--she thought she could disregard the RPA rules and go forward. We need to protect our natural wetlands!

Anonymous said...

Anon 3:23PM, don't blame the urban planners. No one listens to them. Blame Penny Gross, Gerry Connolly and Sharon Bulova for doing what is best for their voting record and tax proffers. The more they build the more tax income for the county to pay for their misguided social programs.

Anonymous said...

AMEN. We MUST protect our natural wetlands!

Anonymous said...

How ridiculous. FFC will do anything to acquire real estate taxes...why due to their extreme and generous benefits and retirement. The only way to continue getting taxes to support this is raise real estate taxes and they can. Instead of doing the right thing in lowering the benefits and retirement, they will continue to raise taxes every year. This absolutely should not be done. If so, then flood insurance should be so high that the owner will say no. What a stupid idea but then how smart is FFC. They will do anything before they get off the gravy train.

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