A British architech who says he has "a dream" to connect the English and American histories of the George Washington family may meet local opposition in his plans to build a tourist complex in southern Fairfax County.
Some residents in the area near Pohick Episcopal Church in Lorton, where Washington worshiped, say they are not as excited about the dream as architect Kenneth Favell, who wants to reconstruct two George Washington homes and build a visitors center on a six-acre site next to the historic church.
"I like historical things, but that doesn't sound too desirable," says Lewis Galli, who lives about eight miles from the site. "With additional traffic and the funding problems, it sounds to me that it's rather questionable." The site is expected to attract 50,000 to 60,000 visitors a year and about 200 cars and five to six buses each week, a Favell representative said.
Elaine Roehrs, another resident who lives about a half mile from the Pohick Church, says she's worried that the addition of another tourist attraction -- to go along with Mt. Vernon, Woodlawn Plantation, Gunston Hall and the church -- will force the area to "reach a saturation point. We have had so much stuff down in this area, that I just don't know."
From his Cheshire England home yesterday, Favell said that he has spent about "six or seven million dollars" in the past 10 years restoring ancient castles and mansions in England.He said he wants to put about a million and a half dollars into the Washington project, but that it hinges on winning approval from the Fairfax County planning commission, which will consider Favell's special-exception land-use request Sept. 10. The Board of Supervisors will review that decision Sept. 28.
Even if the plan meets the approval of county government, Favell admits he has not been assured of financing and doesn't have any idea of how he would fund the project. "I'm no financier, just an architect with a dream," he said.
At least two Fairfax County officials are receptive to the plan.
"The idea of a tourist complex is a great idea, but I don't want to make any commitments on the land-use issue," said Jack Herrity, Fairfax board chairman. "All I can speak to is the economic viability of tourism. The merits of the land-use case will have to be judged separate."
"On the surface, it sounds like it would [help]," said Philip Reilly, president of Fairfax County's Chamber of Commerce. "George Washington's birthday celebration is coming up next year, and it's a painless way for the county to build up tax dollars." He said tourism generates $146 million a year in Fairfax.