Larry Bruno dreamed of building a swimming pool or owning a chunk of beachfront property one day, but living next to a ditch was not what he had in mind.
Kenneth Allen and Co. Inc., a Herndon-based development firm that plans to construct 19 single-family detached residences behind Bruno's house in Fairfax County's Belle Haven section, has dug a nearly 50-yard-long, banana-shaped water detention pond smack dab next to his house.
"My neighbors asked me if I was going to open a paddle boat concession," said Bruno. He said the pond is even a tad over his property line. Bruno need take only a few small steps from the wooden picket fence that separates the side of his house from the pond to reach the edge of the ditch.
Ron Smore, land development manager for the firm, said the pond was built within the proper boundary lines. "Our surveyors have been there and they have assured us it is not over [Bruno's] property line," Smore said.
Fairfax County planning officials said the pond, which is about six feet deep in some spots and two feet in others, will remain dry most of the year. It is supposed to collect water that runs off from the adjoining new development and release it slowly into a nearby natural stream.
Officials said the county's zoning laws require that developers put in such ponds to prevent soil erosion from construction of new roads or houses.
In order to screen his house from the ditch, Bruno said he will have to spend "thousands of dollars" to plant large trees on the side of the house. He also said he was bothered about possible mosquito infestation from stagnant water in the hole, not to mention the adverse impact it will have on his property value.
"My beef is that the county has been totally unresponsive to anything I've asked them about," Bruno said.
Bruno said county planning officials have refused to meet with him at the site to discuss relocation of the pond. He said one official "hung up on me when I called last week" and that several other staff members gave him the runaround when he expressed his concerns about the pond's impact on his property.
Paul J. Kraucunas, deputy director of the county's division of design review, said the developer has met all the county's design and zoning requirements for the planned housing development. He said county plan reviewers usually do not revisit construction sites after the initial development design is approved. "We leave that to the [county] construction people . . . . We're just busy . . . that's a luxury item type thing," he said.
"I'm certain that a part of his objection to the pond is that it [replaced] a tree area," Kraucunas said. "If he likes trees more than a graded depression, he might consider it a detriment. If Bruno owned this section of the lot he could retain it in whatever [way] he wanted."
The county site reviewer who works for Kraucunas, Sammy San Juan, could not be reached for comment.
Bruno said he knew the developer planned to put the detention pond on the vacant lot next to his house, but he said he had no idea it would be almost half the length of a football field and the depth of a small swimming pool.
Smore said it was too late to move the pond.
"In early conversations [with Bruno] he knew we were doing something there," said Smore.
" . . . These ponds go somewhere near the lowest point of the property to collect water and retain it. You put them where you have to put them."
Bruno, who bought his small, brick house on Yale Drive in 1979, said he was tired of being rebuffed by county planners.
"They said you have nothing to say about it because it's not your land," he said. "I've always tried to work through the channels of a bureaucracy, but all these guys will do is point fingers to each other."
Kraucunas said detention ponds are common to new housing developments around the county. "I don't see it as a great detriment to his property."