Fairfax County officials on Tuesday ended a dispute over the location of a train control room that would manage the switches and signals needed to transfer trains from the Orange Line to the Metrorail extension to Dulles International Airport, commonly known as the Silver Line.
Fairfax had already approved putting the control room at the site of an existing Metro power substation near Fisher Avenue and Great Falls Street and adjacent to Brilyn Park, a quiet Falls Church neighborhood of single-family houses.
However, rail project officials learned that the approved site would require the relocation of underground electrical and water lines. They requested to build the control room south of Fisher Avenue, where it would be set back 25 feet from the street behind I-66.
But the Fairfax Planning Commission denied the request last month, noting that the 25-foot setback was out of character for the neighborhood, where most houses are 40 to 50 feet from streets.
The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, which is supervising the rail project, then appealed the Planning Commission’s denial.
In a 6 to 4 vote Tuesday, the Fairfax Board of Supervisors approved the appeal and also reversed the Planning Commission’s decision.
Speaking before the board, Fisher Avenue residents said they opposed a second Metro building off their street because the power substation already attracts litter, graffiti and loiterers.
The proposed site “would simply move all of this activity closer to family residences in this neighborhood,” said Fisher Avenue resident Jon Kaufmann.
Airport authority officials warned that building the control room at the approved site next to the power substation could delay the first phase of the Silver Line by about eight months and cost up to $300,000 per day of delay.
But Supervisor John W. Foust (D-Dranesville), who voted against the appeal, said the airports authority was “threatening us with bogus claims of huge damages if we don’t give them what they want.”
He also accused rail project officials of obtaining the necessary permits for the proposed site while they met with Brilyn Park residents to brainstorm alternative locations for the train control room.
The airports authority wanted the train control room at the “proposed site because that’s where they wanted it, regardless of what the community wanted,” said Foust, whose district includes Brilyn Park.
Pat Nowakowski, the rail project’s executive director, said officials are willing to mitigate the impact of the proposed train control room by improving the landscaping, adding additional lighting and installing cameras.
“If we are able to move forward with this we will do everything we can to make this a more appealing site to the neighborhood,” he said.