After hearing hours of passionate testimony from supporters and opponents, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors opted to take a little more time to study a proposed new traffic management plan for a planned private school in Vienna.
The Oakcrest School, an all-girls Catholic middle and high school now located in McLean, won approval in 2010 to locate its new campus on property in Vienna, near the intersection of Hunter Mill and Crowell roads.
Part of that approval was predicated on two traffic flow conditions negotiated with the community — locating the school campus’s driveway on Hunter Mill Road and installing a roundabout at the intersection with Crowell Road, which is now controlled by stop signs.
However, the school was not successful in purchasing the property it needed to build the roundabout, and it cannot proceed with constructing the new campus facilities if it can’t meet that condition.
Last year, 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.
Many neighbors balked at the proposed change, saying that the roundabout was the only reason they relaxed their initial opposition to the school in the first place. At Tuesday’s hearing, many expressed safety concerns about the proposed Crowell Road entrance, which is near a sharp curve that many have begun calling “Dead Man’s Curve.”
Vienna resident Elizabeth Abiles said the community and the board already evaluated and rejected the currently proposed options in 2010.
“We decided that they were not viable options at that time, that the entrance on Dead Man’s Curve is too dangerous,” she said. “The only thing that has changed is that traffic has gotten worse on Hunter Mill and Crowell.”
Despite months of community meetings since a divided Planning Commission signed off on the revised traffic plan, the school representatives and neighbors have not come to terms with one another’s positions.
Parents and students pleaded with the Board of Supervisors, saying that they fear denying the plan amendment would mean the end of their beloved school. Oakcrest has already sold its McLean property and, according to some speakers, has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars trying to work through the county’s land use process.
Oakcrest parents like Jonathan Dort, a Vienna resident who said he already travels that route regularly, said they would not support the Crowell Road entrance if they believed it was not safe because their children will be traveling there every day.
“It will allow these girls to avoid the closure of their school … a legitimate fear I believe is becoming all too real,” Dort said.
The Board of Supervisors will make its decision on the Oakcrest traffic management plan Feb. 11 at 4 p.m.
“I think what we want to do is get to the best that we can,” said Supervisor Cathy Hudgins (D-Hunter Mill), explaining her goal in deferring the decision.