Developing a Flood Plain

Developing a Flood Plain

Proposed site plan near Scotts Run Road would have quarter mile-long properties lying in flood plain.

<bt>Just how far should a single property line extend?

A plan for several lots included in a 20-home area to be developed by the Ballantre Group along Scotts Run Road has some property lines extending for almost a quarter-mile, less than four feet wide, going up to the Beltway and into a flood plain, according to the developer's site plan.

Beth Chung, a member of the steering committee dedicated to blocking the development from becoming a reality, referred to the site plan as the "Bride of Frankenstein development" during Wednesday night's meeting of the McLean Citizens Association's Environment, Parks and Recreation committee.

"This lot is owned by the Ballantre Group and much of the land is unbuildable because it is in a flood plain," Chung said. The area is zoned R-1 for residential development, but the developer is "trying to get a density bonus by including unbuildable lots in with two buildable lots," she said.

The developer submitted a plan to the county on July 6, she said, but since the development is being done by right, it would not automatically require a public hearing. "There's a proposal in there to vacate that part of Scotts Run Road and move it up to create a cul de sac. They're trying to get the approval to move the RPA line, but there's three different locations on three different maps where the RPA line actually is," she said. RPA stands for resource protected area, a buffer zone surrounding a stream or other environmentally sensitive area.

Lots seven, eight, nine, 11 and 12 would all have property lines extending along the northeastern edge of the boundary of the development, according to the site plan, and reaching the Beltway. Committee chairman Frank Crandall said this is most likely in an attempt to "get the frontage for zoning."

"That whole area is heavily wooded to help stabilize the flood plain," said McLean resident Merrily Pierce.

"WE'VE BEEN TOLD these non-contingent lots were mentioned in a letter to Bruce Nassimbeni," Chung said. Nassimbeni is the deputy administrator of the environment and facilities review division of the county's planning commission. "We're going to appeal the decision that the lots are in compliance with county regulations."

In the hopes of delaying or blocking approval of the developer's site plan, Chung said the residents of properties that abut the development are "demanding an RPA delineation. We are open to going to the developer to say we want a 100-foot buffer zone in a conservation zone. If the developer is going to get the density he wants, we need to work for conservation," she said.

Unless Scotts Run Road is vacated and moved, "the developer won't be able to build the homes," said committee member Whit Field. "There's not enough frontage to justify that density."

If the site plan with the long property lines is approved, the frontage would be available despite most of it lying in a flood plain which renders it unbuildable, he said.

Dranesville District Supervisor Joan DuBois has agreed to write a letter demanding a public hearing if the plan is approved, said Trish Butler, whose property would be affected by any excess runoff from a home built in a flood plain.

If one of the streams that runs through the area is declassified because of a change in the RPA, "that protection is lost," said Deborah Reyher, Esq., a resident in the area of the proposed development. Reyher was speaking as a private citizen, but she has worked as an environmental lawyer with the Department of Justice for several years.

"We've been pounding the table with the same refrain and getting nowhere," she said of the concerns about stream preservation and conservation. "This is terrible and distressing, but this is happening on the heels of Wedderburn," she said, referring to another planned development that will require stream declassification.

When a stream in the area to be developed is classified as intermittent, meaning it does not fill with water on a regular, steady basis, "the area it affects will increase the buildable space on both sides of the lot," Reyher said. "If this plat is not approved, the developer may have another plan in the works. This whole area is a developer's treasure box. There are ways to improve their plans and strip away some RPAs and take advantage of it."

If RPAs are allowed to be removed on a widespread basis, it would essentially render the Chesapeake Bay Protection Ordinance useless, Crandall said. The Ordinance was put in place with regulations to protect environmentally-sensitive areas near rivers and streams that eventually feed into the Chesapeake Bay in order to help revitalize the aquatic life there.