Planning Commission Orders Stop to Lincoln Development
By STEPHEN SIEGEL
Falls Church Times Staff
August 7, 2012
Falls Church City’s Planning Commission ruled Monday night that a residential construction project at 1007 Lincoln Avenue is in violation of water management rules and must stop work immediately.
The stunning decision caps months of effort by a variety of residents, some in the neighborhood and others throughout the City, who have been opposed to the project from the start and believe it never should have been given a building permit by city officials.
But the decision raises as many questions as it answers. Among them: Does this mean the project has to stop? One might think the Commission’s position would require that, but such a ruling has never been issued before, and city officials aren’t conceding the point. Nor is the Planning Commission itself.
Melissa Teates, chairwoman of the Commission, declined to comment via email this morning. “Unfortunately, the Planning Commission may have to take legal action to have the decision upheld and work stopped. We are waiting to hear John Foster’s opinion,” she said, referring to the City attorney. “Therefore I cannot make any public statements.”
City officials are saying much the same thing. “In regards to the Lincoln Avenue development, we don’t have a plan of action yet. The City Manager and City Attorney are reviewing the Planning Commission’s decision and will work on what the next steps will be,” said spokeswoman Susan Finarelli.
Assuming the decision survives the legal wrangling, another question is: Can the project, which already has poured foundations for two new houses, still find a way to meet the Planning Commission’s requirement and be completed? If not, developer Art McArthur will have spent a lot of money for nothing.
The Planning Commission’s ruling said water management rules, known as CBIRT, an acronym for Chesapeake Bay Interdisciplinary Review Team, require the development to have no more than 35 percent of its land area covered by impermeable surfaces — the house, driveway, and any concrete walkways or decks. But instead the project is 41 percent impermeable.
The purpose of the rules is to provide as much open land — grass, trees, mulch — as possible to absorb water, which should help minimize the amount of water entering the city’s stormwater system and improve the quality of water that ends up in area streams, rivers, and, ultimately, the Chesapeake Bay.
The opponents, including former Zoning Board of Appeals Chairman John Murphy, who resigned from that board earlier this year after a dispute with city officials over a decision on City Manager Wyatt Shields’ house, have criticized the project because of concerns about density — the project will create two houses where one previously stood — and have expressed concern that increased flooding in the neighborhood would result from the increased water runoff the project would create.
By Stephen Siegel
August 7, 2012