The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday approved the revamped land use application submitted by Oakcrest School, clearing the way for the private girls school to finally proceed with building a new Reston campus.
The 180-student Catholic middle and high school, currently located in McLean, purchased land years ago at Crowell and Hunter Mill Roads on which to build a new school.
While Oakcrest has been approved for the new school on the Reston-Vienna border since 2010, that plan included a traffic roundabout on which to ease traffic flow near the school. However, the school was unable to obtain the land for the roundabout, so last year it submitted a new plan that included a traffic light near the school entrance.
The neighbors and the school officials have been arguing about it ever since.
The Fairfax County Planning Commission recommended the new plan for approval in July. After hearing from dozens of residents and school girls earlier this month, the supervisors votes 8-2 Tuesday in favor of the Special Exception Amendment for Oakcrest.
“This was a difficult and complex issue,” said Hunter Mill Supervisor Cathy Hudgins, who voted in favor. “It was important to allow sufficient time and input to reach a decision that is best for everyone. The community contributed both supporting and opposing feedback in the course of the numerous public gatherings and private citizens meetings, during four facilitated meetings with the applicant and the community, through an outpouring of e-mail, and via multiple conference calls.”
“Moving Oakcrest beyond an impasse is a tribute to process of participation by which our district is rightly known. Given the unusual history surrounding this case, this is the best permissible resolution.”
Some residents are not so pleased.
“This should have been denied a long time ago,” wrote one commenter on Reston Now.
“The school went ‘all in’ before they had the land that they themselves agreed to acquire to make the agreement work. Now they want a light, which is exactly what was opposed to from the very start. The Board does not understand this road. This does not just impact the people that live on the road; although they will be impacted the most. It impacts thousands of commuters each week.”
The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors is scheduled to decide Tuesday on a revision to the traffic pattern near the site of a planned girls school off of Hunter Mill Road on the Reston-Vienna border.
Oakcrest School, a 180-student Catholic girls middle and high school, has been planning for years to move from McLean to Hunter Mill and Crowell Roads, where it will build a new facility.
They have been approved for the move for more than four years, about the same amount of time school officials and planners have been going back and forth with neighbors over traffic.
A condition of the earlier approval hinged on two traffic flow conditions negotiated with the community. The school was to locate the campus driveway on Hunter Mill Road and install a roundabout at the intersection with Crowell Road, which is now controlled by stop signs.
However, Oakcrest was unable to purchase the property it needed to build the roundabout, so it has been unable to proceed with building the campus without it.
In 2013, Oakcrest submitted an alternate proposal that would use a traffic light at the Crowell-Hunter Mill intersection instead, and move the school’s entrance to Crowell Road.
That created a new set of conflicts with Crowell Road-area residents. Some of those residents — along with many students — spoke at a BOS public hearing on the subject last month.
Many residents are concerned about a Crowell Road entrance which has a sharp curve dubbed “Dead Man’s Curve.”
In July, the Fairfax County Planning Commission voted 6-5-1 for approval of the amended plan.
Parents and students told the supervisors in January that they fear their school will close if this issue goes on much longer — or is denied. Oakcrest’s McLean property has been sold, and the school has spent in the six figures during the dragged-out land use process, parents said.
Hunter Mill planning commissioner Frank de la Fe voted in favor of recommending the the amended plan for approval. Dranesville rep Jay Donohue, however, called the plan dangerous no matter what.
“Crowell Road is not going to accommodate, I don’t think, what it’s going to have to accommodate as an access point to this application without greatly, greatly inconveniencing people in the area,” he said at the July planning meeting. “And also, I think it’s a dangerous – I think it’s a dangerous situation. So I’m going to have to oppose the application.”