Opinion: Letter to the Editor: Dangerous Precedent

The Fairfax County Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors must decide whether to approve a development proposal that would violate policies that the Board of Supervisors created and presumably supports. Developers are proposing to bring in 41,000 cubic feet of fill and build 43 townhouses on top of it in an area next to Dogue Creek and Pole Road Park at 8800 Richmond Highway. Many are asking, why would they approve a developer’s project that is inconsistent with at least three of their own stated environmental protection policies?

  • Avoid Floodplains: Fairfax County’s comprehensive plan supports avoiding building in floodplains because floods can harm humans, structures and the natural environment, as we have recently, poignantly witnessed in North and South Carolina. The developers want to put these homes in the 100-year floodplain of Dogue Creek, a high-risk Special Flood Hazard Area, as designated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Floodplains have a necessary ecological purpose, to absorb floodwaters. The application has no substitute, if there is one, for the role of the current floodplain.

  • Avoid Resource Protection Areas (RPAs): In 1993, the Board of Supervisors enacted the Chesapeake Bay Preservation ordinance, under which the county has identified RPAs, and in general, prohibited most types of development in RPAs. The board’s intentions in creating RPAs were to improve water quality, curtail pollutants, reduce stormwater runoff and prevent erosion. This development would be 100 percent within the resource protection area.

  • Avoid EQCs: In 1975, the Board of Supervisors adopted the Environmental Quality Corridors policy to protect environmentally-sensitive lands and to prevent development in EQCs unless “extraordinary circumstances and only where mitigation/compensation measures are provided that will result in a clear and substantial net environmental benefit.” This application does not demonstrate “extraordinary circumstances” to justify this development. This project would be almost entirely within the Environmental Quality Corridor.

For decision makers to establish policies and then approve applications contrary to those policies undermines the integrity of those policies, making them effectively meaningless. Furthermore, approving this application raises questions about county officials’ willingness to stand behind the very laws they pass. Approving this application would set a dangerous precedent for the entire county and give residents little confidence in their elected and appointed officials’ willingness to stand up to developers and protect the natural resources of Fairfax County.

Michael Sieracki

Alexandria

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