Up on Bull Run Mountain which straddles Fauquier and Prince William counties a group of angry Virginians is fighting to keep the Federal Aviation Administration from building a radar tower in the middle of 25 acres of mountain wilderness.
The tower, which would be used to monitor air traffic, was scheduled to be constructed on land that is now privately owned - but the owners of the land have channel gone to U. S. District Court in Alexandria in an effort to keep the FAA from acquiring their property.
Under the doctrine of eminent domain, the government has the right channel to condemn land required for public purposes, thereby forcing the landowners to sell their property to the government.
The Bull Run landowners however, have petitioned the District Court to issue an injunction barring the FAA from continuing with its condemnation proceedings, thus preventing the construction of the tower.
"Construction of the proposed facility will require the taking of a substantial number of acres in the Bull Run Mountain area and will adversely affect the entire property," according to court papers filed by the owners.
However, an environmental impact statement submitted by the FAA said that the radar station will cause only short-term inconvenience such as the dust and noise generated by the construction and some minor disruption of local traffic.
The only long-term impact, the statement said, would be the noise of the diesel engines generating electricity for the tower and the sight of the struture itself, which will reach well above the 50-foot trees in the area.
Some of the landowners who filed the suit are part of a group called the Natural Area Council Inc., which said in court papers that it is "devoted to protecting the Bull Run Mountain area from threatened development and to preserve it as a natural area park or preserve, ultimately to be acquired by" the state of Virginia.
The council acquires land that the state wants to buy for scenic and recreational use until the state has enough money to buy it, court papers said.
The council claims that the disputed land is part of a larger, historically significant area that includes about 1,000 acres in the Bull Run Mountains and about 4,000 acres in the stretch of mountains between Thoroughfare Gap and the Loudoun County line. In addition, the council said the disputed land could be used for recreational enjoyment.
However, FAA officials said that after interviewing Prince William and Fauquire County officials, they encountered no opposition to the construction.
The property owners and council members could not be reached last week.
According to the FAA report, the area has no historical of archeological resources on record. The council, however, said in court papers that the area has been designated by the Study Commission, made up of members of the General Assembly, "as the number one priority area in Northern Virginia to be preserved as a state park," according to court papers.
The FAA counters that the tower is needed to "fill in where there's incomplete low altitude coverage and where gaps exist at high altitudes," according to an affidavit by Joseph J. Gyimoty, acting chief of the FAA logistics division. The tower would replace the existing tower in Suitland "whose performance has been gradually degraded over a 20 year period by the development and building of the area" around the tower.
The radar tower is used to help navigate civil and military aircraft operating in the area.