Paul Meyer read Item 15 in the contract for his new house in the gated golf course community of Dominion Valley. The item noted that a fire station "may be built on the public facilities site located off Antioch Road" in the community.
Meyer said he did not worry. On two maps he used to pick his lot -- including a large-scale one in the Dominion Valley sales office -- there was no indication of a fire station. On a third, it was indicated in small letters and seemed to be beyond the bounds of development and behind a thick buffer of trees. After he moved into his house in June, however, the plans became crystal clear.
A sign went up describing the 13,000-square-foot fire station to be built on Antioch Road, about 100 feet from Meyer's house on Ryder Cup Drive.
"They didn't disclose that it would be connecting to Ryder Cup," Meyer said, explaining there is to be an access road for the firetrucks alongside his house and into the community. "They call that disclosure?"
Meyer said the developer, Toll Brothers, told the residents of the $700,000-plus houses that yes, that is what it calls disclosure. Toll Brothers did not return calls for comment.
Prince William County fire officials told about 100 residents at a meeting Wednesday night that they will look into other possible locations for the station. But they said the current site, proffered by Toll, is proper given the booming population in Haymarket and Gainesville, response time targets and the coming development near Antioch Road.
"This is where we want it," Matt Smolsky, the county's battalion chief for planning, said Friday, adding that the site was chosen after careful study.
Meyer and some other Dominion Valley residents said they are not opposed to a fire station but questioned whether the proposed location is ideal. Some residents also said the reason they moved into a gated community was precisely to avoid such hassles.
"We were shocked and stunned to find out that when we moved into a planned community, suddenly these enormous county services were going in," Meyer said. "You give up some rights to live in a smaller, confined area, and in return, you expect to get some protections."
The original site for the fire station was part of a deal struck in 1999 and was moved to the current location when Toll Brothers amended its plans in 2001.
The station would have two exits, one onto Antioch Road and a rural area outside the development, and the other onto Ryder Cup Drive and into Dominion Valley.
Meyer said that because the main artery, Route 15, is at the opposite end of the development and most of the population is off Route 15 rather than Antioch Road, he estimates that 90 percent of the calls will bring firetrucks through the community -- racing past expensive homes, recreation centers and playgrounds toward the exit to Route 15.
"There's a bus stop," Meyer said. "So you can picture children waiting there as a multi-ton truck comes barreling through."
He said that it will take four minutes just to get through Dominion Valley and that a better location would be on some parkland that Toll Brothers has set aside along Route 15, at the other end of the development.
Smolsky disagreed that it would take that long to reach Route 15. He said that perhaps 50 percent of the calls would bring trucks through Dominion Valley and that the county anticipates more development -- albeit not as dense -- in the Antioch Road area.
And besides, he said, it won't be that bad.
"The busiest station in the county is Stonewall Jackson station, and it's on a residential street, next to a school, an assisted living facility and a kinder care," Smolsky said. "And we coexist daily with them."
Smolsky also pointed out that in locating new fire stations, the county tries to cover the most area and achieve the lowest response times in a given coverage area, whether it's 100 people or 20. In other words, it's not simply a matter of locating station near the most densely populated areas but serving all people in a given area equally.
"The people who live along Antioch are entitled to a four- to five-minute response time, too," he said.
Thomas Nyman, who lives near the proposed fire station, said that at the meeting with county officials Wednesday night, he was struck by the "not in my back yard" tone of some of his neighbors.
If the county decides the fire station should go there, so be it, he said, but the plan needs to be reevaluated first.
"When the station was proffered, there was a set of expectations on the table," Nyman said. "But since then things have changed dramatically, and what might have made sense then needs to be looked at in context, because the population center seems to be along Route 15, and not Antioch Road."
Supervisor John T. Stirrup Jr. (R-Gainesville), who was at the meeting Wednesday night, said Toll Brothers has been agreeable and promised the county would work with the developer to look into alternatives, but that it might get complicated.
"I've tried to emphasize how difficult that would be, particularly since we're six years into this process and all the residents in Dominion Valley were aware the station would be sited there," Stirrup said.