A stalled private school construction project in the Reston area is again under scrutiny from the school’s future neighbors.
Oakcrest School, a girls school now located in McLean, secured zoning approval in 2010 to build a new campus near the intersection of Hunter Mill and Crowell roads.
The school is now applying for a change in its traffic mitigation plans after it was unable to purchase all the land needed for the traffic improvements it originally agreed to. Most of the school’s neighbors oppose the traffic signal included in the new proposal.
The Fairfax County Planning Commission deferred its decision on the changes last week, following a public hearing.
Following intensive discussions with the community, the rezoning approved in 2010 required Oakcrest School to construct a roundabout at the intersection of Hunter Mill and Crowell roads to accommodate the new traffic going to and from the school. The three-way intersection is currently controlled by stop signs and can get congested during peak hours, given its close proximity to Hunter Mill’s intersections with Sunset Hills Road and the Dulles Toll Road.
Oakcrest has been unable to acquire the land needed to build the roundabout, which required purchasing property from four different owners, according to the school’s land use attorney, Greg Riegle. The county opted not to use eminent domain to take the land, he said.
“We’re here because we have a condition that, in our estimation, is impossible to complete,” he said.
Installing a stoplight instead of the roundabout would only require negotiating a deal with one landowner, Riegle said, and the school already has a tentative deal in place with that owner.
Removing the roundabout also requires relocating the school’s entrance to Crowell Road, instead of Hunter Mill, and removing a berm topped with mature trees that was installed when the adjacent golf park was constructed.
Neighbors say these changes break the deal that led them to support the school’s development in the first place.
“All of the neighbors I have talked to about this are terribly disappointed and disillusioned that the two main development conditions that this was predicated on have been thrown under the bus,” said John Mansfield, who said he lives just north of the intersection in question.
A primary concern for residents is shifting the school’s driveway entrance to Crowell Road, just past a sharp curve in the road. They said they are worried about safety as well as congestion on Crowell that could make it more difficult for them to get into and out of cross streets and driveways.
Those in direct sight of the school property are also upset about the proposed removal of the berm and the trees that sit on top of it, as it would remove a natural sound and visual barrier between their homes, the school and golf course property and the Dulles Toll Road.
“Our home will no longer have this shielding,” said Chad Loudon, who lives on Crowell Road adjacent to the intersection.
However, another neighboring property owner said she will not support the roundabout that was originally proposed because it would encroach on her property more than the traffic signal.
“My house would be two car lengths away from a traffic circle,” she said. “That would be 24-7 noise.”
The Planning Commission is scheduled to vote on the proposed changes to the Oakcrest School plan on July 10.