The Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority last week conditionally approved sewer easements across park land in the Great Falls area for the controversial 329-acre Falconridge development. But the outcome of the four-year fight to put 154 units of cluster housing into the rural area bordering the Potomac River was still in doubt.
The current developer, Edward R. Carr and Associates of Annandale, already has approval from Fairtax County for a smaller 136-house development that would utilize septic systems instead of public sewer lines. But to build the full 154-house project on the 329-acre development site, Carr would have to meet the conditions imposed by the Park Authority.
The conditions require the developer to prove that he had made every attempt to connect with the sewer line without crossing park land. Failing that, the developer would have to acquire easements from the two adjacent property owners whose land would also be crossed by the sewer line before the authority would grant the park land easement.
The decision came after three hours of debate before the Park Authority's board last Thursday night that pitted [WORD ILLEGIBLE] 60 area residents against developer spokesman John Cowles.
Area homeowner Don Neilson, spokesman for the Great Falls Citizens Association, said that his group would continue to fight either cluster housing plan.
"Our only real weapon is hassle," Neilson said, "and that's what we're going to continue to do."
Cowles, who is vice president of Carr Associates, said his company probably would go ahead and again attempt to get the approval of the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission to tap into the Dulles Interceptor sewer where it crosses the actual development site.
This permission initially had been refused, Cowles said, because the sanitary commission had been allowing connections only at previously designated points.
A park authority spokesman said Cowles had failed to provide proof that this alternative had been "aggressively pursued."
The citizens' group, in its testimony before the board, claimed that the two adjacent property owners had assured them that they would refuse to let the sewer line cross their properties. However, the developer could seek condemnation proceedings through the county to acquire those easements, it was pointed out.
The 154-house project was initially laid out as Northwood Downs four years ago by another developer. Each of the houses would be on a lot of slightly less than an acre. Most of the houses already built in the area are on two-acre or larger lots.
The developer would give 103.5 acres of the tract in the flood plain along the river to the Park Authority and would provide scenic easements on other portions of the property.
Residents, led by the citizens' association, have opposed the project and its attemtps to bring in public water and sewer lines north of the Georgetown Pike, Route 193, claiming it is inconsistent with the already-established community and would set a precedent for other similar development.
The association succeeded in defeating Carr's attempt to get Fairfax County approval to run a water line out Walker Road into the projected development last July, but lost out in the overall battle when Carr sued the county and won a consent decree in February of this year to proceed with the project using wells and sewer or septic systems. Area residents now claim that so many additional wells with affect the limited water supply, possibly drying up wells of existing homes.
Children accompanying the turnout of area residents at last week's meeting carried signs saying "Keep Great Falls in the sticks. Don't bring the city into nature," and "Why 150 houses, 600 people, 100 barking dogs, 150 noisy lawnmowers and 300 polluting cars?"
The citizens of this mainly affluent area, who also claim potential fire hazards and traffic problems for their back-country roads, offered to meet with Carr Associates to come up with a plan to purchase the Falconridge tract for development into a lower-density community.
In informal talks after last week's debate, however, Cowles and the leaders of the citizens' group agreed that a greater profit could be acquired through higher-density development and the citizens could probably not afford the pricetag necessary to compensate the developer for the lost profits.