The price of land may be right but there could be trouble overhead for many prospective Fairfax County homewoners.
The next big surge of homebuilding in the fast-growing county will occur in the middle of a high-noise corridor south of Dulles International Airport-a prospect that both country and federal officials warn could mean trouble for many homeowners.
According to records on file with the county, developers are moving ahead with plans to construct about 6,000 houses in the Dulles corridor, where aircraft noise levels are already generally considered unacceptable-or will be in the next 15 years as air traffic increases. Still more homes could be built in the corridor under the county's present zoning rules, officials say.
"The county's hands are tied," said Edward P.Gorski, a Fairfax environmental planner. Gorski and other county oficials are working on legislation that would strengthen Fairfax's ability to control growth in the Dulles corridor, one of the last big relatively undeveloped areas in the county.
"Quite a few subdivision plats (plans) have already been approved" for the area, Gorski said. "Under Virginia law, the developer has a vested right" to subdivide his land, he said.
While all the houses-many of them single-family dwellings-wont't be built at once, county planners say their construction could be hastened by several factors:
Availability of sewerage through a new regional treatment plant.
Extension of Interstate Rte.66 from the Capital Beltway to the Theodore Roosevelt Bridge to the District-a freeway link that will put downtown Washington within closer commuting distance of the far western corner of Fairfax where Dulles is located.
Completion of subdivisions in the closer-in Pohick section, scene of the current homebuilding surge in Fairfax.
If the bullish housing market holds up, the construction pace south of Dulles could reach 1,500 units a year, according to some Fairfax officials.
"This area is going to be one of the hot spots of development," said Theodore J.Wessel, Fairfax planning director.
Many of the planned houses apparently will be priced from $60,000 to $70,000, a range that would put them in reach of many young families.
A proposed new master plan for Dulles-a document still not adopted by the Federal Aviation Administratrion-urges Fairfax-and Loudoun counties to adopt land-use measures that minimize the impact of aircraft noise on future developments.
Fairfax officials, though, say they have been unable to plan effectively because of lack of direction from FAA, which operates Dulles.
"We've been hampered by FAA-very definitely," said Fairfax Supervisor Marie B.Travesky, whose district includes the area facing development pressures. "Without some hard and fast determination (on noise) by FAA, we can't force landowners to do anything they don't want to."
FAA has steered away from flat conclusion about noise impact. Charles L.Erhard, a planner with the FAA's Metropolitan Washington Airpost Service, which operates Dulles, said noise evaluation is in the area of "soft technology." "There are no federal standards for airport noise," he siad.
An officials at the Environmental Protection Agency in Washington said there was blame on both sides. "My perception," he said, "is that everyone has known what is going on, but nobody wants to bite the bullet."
Fairfax planner Gorski said it might be too late to stop construction of housing in the noisiest part of the corridor. But the county could probably enact legislation-or seek it at the state level-that would require builders to acoustically insulate houses, he saidl.
Supervisor Travesky said she would favor a "sunshine bill" that would require builders to warn prospective purchasers of present or future noise problems.
Under federal guidelines aircraft noise is considered "normally unacceptable" if it rates at "NEF 30" or sound the planes produce, especially whey they are being heavily throttled, such as at takeoff.
Most of the housing that would be above. "NEF" stands for "noise exposure forecast," a computer-modeled value that takes into account the type of aircraft, their traffic mix and the built in the Dulles corridor would be located below the southbound departure runaway. The unacceptable-noise corridor is about a mile and a half wide now, but by 1995 as air traffic increases will cut a swatch almost three miles wide and extend southward nearly down to Manassas in Prince William County.