For ten years now, in a densely wooded area of western Fairfax County, Jay Zawatsky has been laying the groundwork for what appears to be a unique neighborhood in our region: a sustainable community of homes with their own water supplies, their own mini-farms for food, their own natural septic fields and their own compressed natural gas outlets for their cars as well as homes.
In 300 acres along Bull Run Post Office Road in the Centreville area, Zawatsky has plotted out 14 lots of about five acres apiece for his first community, Foxmont. He has already installed the wells, brought in the natural gas, electricity and phone lines, and built the septic fields. One quarter-acre garden plot is already producing abundant fruit, vegetables and flowers.
“It’s not just a green house, but an entire green community,” Zawatsky said as we walked through the woods, which have little more than small stone entry ways to mark the driveways, and platforms for where the houses will go. “I didn’t want to do what other developers are doing, throwing up big boxes of air. Those are just more energy hogs. I wanted to do it in a way that had the least possible impact on the environment.”
Last Christmas, by chance, he met Northern Virginia home builder Diane Basheer at a party. She loved the concept, and is going to build the first, if not all, of the homes at Foxmont, which will retail for at least $1 million.
Basheer said it was the first green community of its kind in Northern Virginia, if not the entire D.C. region. “Everyone is exploring conservation now,” she said. “This particular community has just developed with very little interruption to nature.”
(Details on how Foxmont, and a neighboring sister project, Hunter’s Pond, evolved and where they are headed, along with an interactive map, are after the jump.)
Zawatsky is a lawyer, a developer and natural gas entrepreneur, seeing natural gas as a way out of our dependency on oil. He’s been involved in developing properties in the District for years, including rehabbing historic buildings in Georgetown and on U Street.
Along the way, he developed an interest in environmental protection.
“I believe the era of cheap energy is coming to an end,” Zawatsky said. He began wondering, “How can I help people, and make money, while energy is becoming more expensive, yet help people maintain their lifestyle?”
He was also a member of the law firm Ingersoll & Bloch, headed by attorney William B. Ingersoll, who helped develop the time-share industry. Ingersoll’s father, William Ingersoll, had bought 345 acres of land in western Fairfax County in 1959, and on many weekends rode out to the country to ride horses and camp. The barn he used remains on the planned Hunter’s Pond development, and can be seen if you use the “satellite” function on the map below, just northeast of the pond.
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The pond at the center of this map, along Bull Run Post Office Road, is Hunter’s Pond. The Foxmont development is just east and north of the pond.
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After the senior Ingersoll and his wife died, William Ingersoll turned to Zawatsky, familiar with his environmental interests, “and asked me if I wanted to put my money where my mouth was.” Zawatsky had formed a company, Trust Communities, and in 2001 he partnered with Ingersoll’s family trust to form the Bull Run Joint Venture and began the groundwork toward building Foxmont.
The idea, Zawatsky said, “was to develop a community that was as self-reliant as it could be, within reason. Not survivalist. In an area close to employment centers, so you could have the best of urban living and the best of rural living, and still be able to get to a good job.”
Over the years, Zawatsky arranged for a natural gas line to be installed to the property, and then placed compressors on each lot, so people can fill their cars with compressed natural gas (CNG), which sells for about $1.20 a gallon. “Using CNG to replace gasoline and diesel will reduce fuel costs for NoVa drivers by more than 50 percent for every mile driven,” Zawatsky said. “That is like a giant tax cut for NoVa families.”
He built a road into the woods, and drilled 300-foot wells for water on each property.. He obtained electricity from NOVEC, and phone service from Verizon. He undertook and accomplished the arduous task of finding and constructing the layers needed for a septic field on each lot.
Each property also has a designated quarter acre for gardening, or they can use a plot underneath a large power line that runs across the north end of the property. Zawatsky expects these mini-farms to provide apples, peaches, pears, cherries and plums, plus corn, beans, peppers, tomatoes, watermelons, pumpkins, cucumbers, squash, eggplant and zucchini.
At Hunter’s Pond, there will be bass fishing and deer hunting. Five lots are planned initially, also five acres each. Zawatsky has connected more than four miles of equestrian trails, with a ford point into the northeast corner of Manassas National Battlefield Park, which has 21 miles of riding trails. A bald eagle lives near the pond and has been seen swooping down to pick up bass, Zawatsky said.
Basheer was enthusiastic when Zawatsky first told her of his development, and she soon came out with a team who inspected the area and deemed it a great opportunity. “They’re large lots, which are hard to find,” she said. “And it is just a beautiful piece of property.”
The homes will be energy efficient, and range in size from 4,200 square feet to nearly 8,000 square feet, with four to six bedrooms and four to six bathrooms, Basheer said. The price will be in the “$1 million to $1.3 million range.”
She said the homes will fill a market need for families who have outgrown townhouses or single-family homes and want to try a more sustainable lifestyle. Zawatsky said Basheer and Edgemoore, Basheer’s company, has the option to identify 12 of the 14 lots in Foxmont to build upon. Last month, she obtained her first building permit.
“It’s a different way of residential development,” Zawatsky said. “We took what nature gave us and made it a tad better.”