Good site planning is something nobody notices because things look as if they had always been there; bad planning is apparent, ugly and, unfortunately, permanent. There are enough recent examples of the latter to cause us all to care about the upcoming development of Marmota Farms.
The existing plan, laid out many years ago, will require the total devastation of the meadows and trees and hedgerows that stretch along Georgetown Pike, helping to maintain the semi-rural feel that residents and visitors prize. It will level and strip the existing topography, replacing it with a long dam, "dry pond" and three acres of new asphalt, and big houses with their backs turned toward the historic road. The rolling hills will be scraped away, destroying the view shed from the historic district, bounded by the old schoolhouse, Grange and several farmhouses that now line the pike at the Eastern entrance to our town.This landscape will be replaced with 11 houses squeezed onto the land in the only arrangement that would satisfy the zoning laws of 2005.
To get a feeling for what we can expect, one need only head East on Route 7 toward Tysons Corner, where Toll Brothers is building a subdivision on the former site of Hazelton Laboratories. It is the big, newly bald patch of mud on the left.
There are other, more sensitive possibilities for the development of the land (see John Colby's Connection article of July 10, 2019) which could largely preserve the beauty and feel the eastern entrance to the village, causing less density and destruction.
We can hope that Toll Brothers doesn't really want to build an unattractive "product," but we need to make them aware that the citizens of Great Falls will want this beloved property to be reworked in a way that we can all be proud of, one that might require a few less lots, but with more intrinsic value to everyone, including the buyers of their homes.
There has always been another option for this property, one which we citizens ourselves could have been working toward during the decade or so this property was on the market (if we hadn't all been simply hoping it wouldn't sell). During the 1960s, a 336-acre tract next to the Beltway on Georgetown Pike was being sold to a builder who intended to build 309 houses. The citizens of McLean objected, electing instead to raise their own taxes to help obtain the land for Fairfax County. In 1970, it was officially purchased and became Scott's Run Nature Preserve.
Could such a thing be possible in 2020?
In any case, the Great Falls Citizens Association continues to work on this issue, hoping to preserve what it can. Join them. Let Toll Brothers and our Supervisor and VDOT know how you feel about various aspects of this project. Marmota will almost certainly be developed, one way or another. There is still time to improve the inevitable.
Lynn Peterson Mobley