The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors is considering rezoning rural land off Centreville Road, just southwest of Herndon, to save dozens of historic buildings and prehistoric sites.
Elizabeth S. David, a historian with the county's Heritage Resources Branch, has asked the Board of Supervisors to designate the area a historic district. David said she feared that the sites, some of which date to between 250 and 8,000 years ago, could be "bulldozed" and "obliterated" by future subdivisions and industrial parks if the land is not protected.
The historic buildings, most of which were built in the late 18th and 19th centuries, and fields that contain Indian artifacts that date back 8,000 years, are located in what is called the Frying Pan/Floris area, a heavily wooded section that spreads west of the intersection of Centreville and West Ox roads and along Frying Pan Road and Squirrel Hill Road.
The land is currently zoned residential with some small industrial businesses, but the county's plans would allow larger industries to operate there.
If the supervisors agree to rezone the several hundred acres of mostly undeveloped property, then prospective builders would first have to get design approval from the county's Architectural Review Board. The special district would restrict new house and building plans to the architecture of the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries.
David said residents in the Frying Pan/Floris area, whose families have owned and lived on the land for more than 100 years, are called daily by developers with offers to buy their property.
John and Elizabeth Middleton, who own one of the last three working dairy farms in Fairfax, said they have no intention of selling or moving from the late 19th century farmhouse that has been in their family for three generations.
The Middletons' daughter, Clara Leigh, said her elderly parents are "hounded every day to sell, sell, sell. How can my father move from here when he can barely move from chair to chair sometimes?"
Board of Supervisors Vice Chairman Martha V. Pennino (D-Centreville) said that the effort to declare the area a historic district is not an attempt to thwart growth in western Fairfax but a way to preserve the past by slowing intense development.
"If we don't take this kind of action now, we will never have the opportunity to show our grandchildren that this is how it used to be," Pennino said in a telephone interview.
"Some people are going to complain that the historic district designation usurps their right to make money," she said. "But the landowners will still be able to make a profit if they sell their property ."
But Bob Bowman, a fourth-generation county resident who runs a furniture store inside the mid-19th century house he was born in, said he would gladly sell his property if offered the right price.
"I'm a dollar and cents man. I don't care what comes across the street," said Bowman, whose store is dwarfed by the sprawling Copper Crossing housing development next door. "I would sell, walk out and never look back."
Betsy Chittenden, a preservationist hired by the county in October 1984 to study the rural area, said that if nothing is done to save the historic houses, churches and barns that dot busy Centreville Road and the surrounding woods, then the buildings will deteriorate. "And there is also the direct threat of being bulldozed by development."
The supervisors are to hold a public hearing on the proposed rezoning in late spring or early summer.