Year of Changes

Year of Changes

Comprehensive Plan brush-up, construction projects, animal hoarding topped this year's headlines.

Burke had a busy year, kicking off the Area Plans Review (APR) process and finalizing plans to dredge Lake Accotink. Voters in the 41st District elected a new House of Representatives delegate for the first time in over 30 years, area high school boundaries underwent a reexamination, and a house with too many cats made national news.

Area Plans Review

The Fairfax County Comprehensive Plan for the Braddock District is receiving the once-over. In July, the APR process began with a nomination period, in which task force and community members submitted proposals for changes or clarifications to the plan. The citizen task force began reviewing the proposals in November, and will release its reports in spring 2006.

In the Braddock District, task force nominations focused on maintaining low density, environmental protections and pedestrian access to the Burke Centre VRE station. One proposal would allow lots adjacent to the Kings Park Shopping Center to develop with office and commuter parking, while others would prevent developers from consolidating land parcels and building high-density projects in subdivisions off Roberts and Athens roads.

Lake Accotink Dredging Deal Set

Frustrated boaters on sludgy Lake Accotink can breathe a sigh of relief, because the dredging project is finally underway. After five years, two contract bids and short funds, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved a contract with Mobile Dredging and Pumping Co. to dredge the lake, while the Fairfax County Park Authority finalized plans for the process.

Lake Accotink, created by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in 1918, helps manage storm water runoff. As it does this, it collects silt. In 1960, said Lake Accotink Park manager Tawny Hammond, the lake was 110 acres. Now, it is 55 acres.

In 1998, Fairfax County authorized $6.1 million in a bond referendum for the project and in 2000, the design process began. Planners decided to use hydraulic pumps and pipes to remove silt from the water, piping the material to a Virginia Concrete site in the Shirley Park Industrial Complex off Backlick Road, three miles away.

The project went out to bid twice, first in December 2003, and again in February 2005 when the first bid came back too high. Mobile Dredging was the only bidder both times, and in July the Board of Supervisors awarded them a $7.25 million contract to dredge the lake.

The dredger is a 50-foot barge that floats along the lake surface and attaches to a 14-inch-diameter pipeline. The silt-filled water, or slurry, flows through the pipe to the Virginia Concrete site, where it is dried and used to grade a section of their property.

"We anticipate to get in there and do a good job, get it done on time," said Jerry Vetter, executive director of Mobile Dredging. "I hope Virginia Concrete ends up with a nice site and the people at Lake Accotink end up with a lake they can use again."

Marsden Wins 41st District

Receiving 59 percent of the vote, Democrat Dave Marsden beat out Republican Michael Golden to fill Del. Jim Dillard (R-41)'s House of Delegates seat in the Nov. 8 election. Dillard endorsed Marsden, a former superintendent of Fairfax County's Juvenile Detention Center, citing "experience and knowledge" and Marsden's moderate position, which stood in contrast to the more right-wing Golden.

The race between Marsden and Golden was a bitter one, featuring negative mailings and ads on local TV. Marsden criticized Golden for supporting relaxed gun control laws, including allowing concealed weapons in bars and public schools, while Golden criticized Marsden for supporting an increase in the state's gas tax and for cutting anti-gang program funding during his tenure as an appointed state juvenile justice official.

Marsden, a former Republican, said he will work across party lines when the General Assembly convenes on Jan. 11. His top legislative priority, he said, will be to implement tough new restrictions on gang members throughout Virginia.

West Springfield Boundary Study

Parents and students from West Springfield and Lee High Schools, along with Lake Braddock Secondary School, became enlightened to the process of determining school boundaries this year, as the threat of overcrowding was brought to the attention of the Fairfax County School Board while drawing boundaries for the new South County Secondary School.

Under the guidance of the Offices of Facilities Planning, two public hearings convened to debate the pros and cons of four possible changes to the three schools. The issues of split feeders, in which students from one elementary school are sent to two or more middle and high schools, played a central role in the boundary study, causing a division in some neighborhoods. A decision is expected from the School Board in February.

The four possible outcomes of the study have a wide-range of impact. Option one would eliminate all split feeder schools, consolidating the Daventry neighborhood into West Springfield High instead of sending some children to Lee High. Option two would retain Keene Mill Elementary School would remain a split feeder, with some children going to Lake Braddock while others go to West Springfield. The third option would keep the current boundaries as they are, but would have the entire Daventry neighborhood attending West Springfield instead of Lee High School. The fourth option would leave all boundaries intact and make no changes at all.

The Facilities Planning Services office will make a suggestion to the School Board during a meeting on Jan. 12, and two public hearings will take place on Jan. 30 and 31, beginning at 7 p.m., at Jackson Middle School. A final decision is expected from the School Board at its meeting on Feb. 23, also at Jackson Middle School. Any changes would be phased in, beginning with the 2006-07 school year, to be completed by 2009-10.

Animal Hoarding

In a bizarre case of pet devotion that made national headlines, 82-year-old Ruth Knueven was arrested for hoarding over 200 cats in a Burke townhouse. On July 13, after discovering 187 dead cats and 86 live ones were found in Knueven's Mount Vernon home, police served a search warrant for the townhouse, which was vacant, on Lakepointe Drive north of Guinea Road. There, officers found nine adult cats and 38 kittens, alive but diseased, and 134 dead cats kept in plastic bins throughout the house.

Neighbors on Lakepointe Drive said they saw Knueven coming and going from the townhouse daily, often with black plastic trash bags in hand. According to neighbor Carol Hutchinson, Knueven never stayed overnight.

Animal control officers removed the cats and declared the Burke house "unfit for habitation." The live cats went to an animal shelter, and nearly all of them were put to sleep.

Knueven was charged with failure to dispose of dead cats, cruelty to animals, obstruction of justice (for trying to hide cats from officers), and two counts of failure to care for animals. On Wednesday, Dec. 14, Knueven pleaded guilty to the cruelty to animals charge. A majority of her $500 fine was waived, as was the 360-day jail stay. Knueven will remain on probation for a year.

Look Back at Braddock Project

Since the summer, the Braddock District Supervisor's Office has been gathering stories about old-time Burke as part of a yearlong history project.

The project is nearing completion, said Supervisor Sharon Bulova (D-Braddock). For the project, 53 long-time Braddock District residents reminisced on-camera about the former farming community that nearly became the home of Dulles Airport. Some of these interviews were edited down into a short video, and all will go into a longer book recording the district's history from its earliest days. The project will conclude in June 2006 with the book's unveiling during Heritage Day at Lake Accotink Park.

Another element of the project involves layered maps that show the shifts in the district's boundaries over the years as well as the area's transformation into a suburb.

Second Assessment Hike at Burke Centre

The assessment rate for Burke Centre residents has been raised for the second year in a row. In November 2004, the Board of Trustees approved an assessment rate of $113 a quarter for residents, which Conservancy staff said was necessary to keep up with rising costs. This year, hurricanes Katrina and Rita have pushed general maintenance costs up further, said trustees. At the yearly budget meeting Nov. 10, the budget committee recommended a $2 raise in the assessment to $115 per quarter, but the board upped that to $118.

According to trustees, the increased assessment will provide more funding for erosion control and capital improvement projects, a nominal salary increase for Conservancy staff members, and reserve study updates.

The vote that approved the increase to $118 per quarter was split four to three, with trustees Sam DiBartolo, Marc Flaster and Greg Smith opposing.

The 2006 assessment will generate $2.7 million, of which about $2.2 million goes into the operations budget and $658,000 goes into capital improvements and capital repairs funds.