Supervisor Kathy Smith (D-Sully) gave her annual State of Sully message, May 26, to the Sully District Council (SDC). Joining the online meeting was the West Fairfax County Citizens Assn. (WFCCA) and local residents.
It began innocuously enough, with Smith giving updates on various projects. But things got testy when attendees contended that she wasn’t doing enough to protect Western Fairfax County.
Upset about the county’s massive zoning-ordinance overhaul, ZMOD, Jay Johnston told her, “When you approve a bunch of by-right activities, no one has any control over them, and the neighbors are disturbed.”
At the outset, Smith said work on the new Sully District Community Center is now 47 percent complete and should be finished in 2022. “It’ll have solar on it, a health clinic and two gym-court spaces,” she said. “It’ll be an exciting resource for our community.”
IN CONJUNCTION with the I-66 widening project, said Smith, all the traffic lights have been removed from Route 28 in Centreville. And she said the county’s project to widen Route 28 from Route 29 to the Prince William County line should be done in March 2022. She also gave a vaccination update and said Rocky Run Middle is one of the schools that’ll have a vaccine clinic for students.
Then came the questions and comments, with SDC’s Jeff Parnes saying the Fairfax County Democratic Committee voted to ask the Board of Supervisors to dismiss new county police chief, Kevin Davis, for his past misconduct.
But, said Smith, “When the Board interviewed him, we believed he was the right person to lead us forward. He’s done work sending both police and mental-health professionals to respond to a scene, and that will help us. We interviewed the man he is today; and with his experience, we believed he was the right man to do the job.”
Centreville’s Jim Hart asked if she supports having party venues for weddings and corporate events on non-arterial roads – not designed for high traffic capacity or high speeds – such as Bull Run Post Office Road [BRPO]. “The General Assembly chose not to go forward with it,” he said.
Smith said she has no plans to add anything on that road and, if someone did, the proposal would have to go through the county’s approval process. But, said Hart, “Bull Run Post Office has been protected for 39 years from nonresidential uses with parking lots, and this is a major policy shift, if it’s a by-right use [which the Supervisors are considering].
The SDC requested Smith ask the Planning and Development department for information about how many weddings it had approved on agricultural land, including wineries and breweries, in the past five years, but she declined.
“And what about bed and breakfasts?” asked Hart. “Why would we open up Bull Run Post Office, abolish public hearings and not allow neighbors notice and an opportunity to be heard about a new, nonresidential use in an area forbidden [for nearly four decades]?” Smith said she doesn’t see more parking lots happening there.
Sheila Dunheimer asked if ZMOD would change the requirements for wineries, breweries, etc., to go through the county’s special-exception permit process. “Are there existing reports for currently operating wineries/breweries tracking their events per year to monitor their compliance?” she asked.
“We don’t track them,” replied Smith. “If you get complaints, you follow up. These aren’t new things happening in the county. The state just enabled us to add some regulations.”
Meanwhile, Johnston wondered why Smith originally proposed another party/hotel-like venue on BRPO for a commercial establishment, “when the brewery at Bull Run Winery received broad, negative response from local citizens. And how would the county establish traffic controls and pedestrian safety for these types of venues?”
CAROL HAWN – whose Centreville home could be affected – made a statement that “Fairfax County communities will definitely be impacted by Prince William County’s Route 28 bypass project, and it’s important to us, even if it’s not important to the Board of Supervisors.” Fairfax County has never held a public hearing on this project and is basically deferring to Prince William’s wishes.
Jim Neighbors asked if the Park Authority is “still evaluating making the northwest corner of Pleasant Valley and Braddock roads into a regional or countywide, athletic tourism center, rather than locally serving athletic fields?” Smith said she thinks there are plans to put ballfields there.
Dunheimer noted that Smith usually ignores the resolutions that the two local land-use committees submit to her re various land-use cases. “Are we wasting our time communicating our views to you, if you feel our questions are so ridiculous or disrespectful?” asked Hart. “Why is communication with you so polarized any time citizens disagree with you?”
“I don’t mind if people disagree with me or have different opinions,” replied Smith. “The confusion about what agritourism is, is just not true.” She also noted that she’s aware of the resolutions but doesn’t refer to them – which was not the case under the previous supervisor.
“Our overall concern is protecting western Fairfax,” said Ted Troscianecki. “We don’t feel your urgency on that.”
“We’re the last frontier in Fairfax County, and that’s why we moved here, because it was rural,” said Johnston. “But we’re losing at every step by building Accessory Living Units and Workforce Dwelling Units.”
“We need to provide housing for people,” answered Smith. “And getting them closer to their jobs will help with the traffic. The county is growing, and the Board is working through it.”
Still, said Hart, “You seem dismissive of the objections to the changes to environmental policy in the Residential-Conservation District, such as ZMOD, expanding agritourism, streamlining and abolishing public hearings, Loudoun County’s impacts on our neighborhoods, airport noise, the jughandle in the floodplain, whatever. And you seem so hostile any time SDC or WFCCA object.”
“We’re just adding regulations,” said Smith.
“But at the expense of decades of protection,” said Troscianecki. “We want you to be our advocate. There are decades of work by many to protect the Occoquan Watershed. The perception is that the current Board of Supervisors is ignoring it – and we’ll continue to vocally oppose the direction it’s taking the county.”