The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved a controversial transportation plan for the Oakcrest School in Vienna on Tuesday.
The private girls school, now located in McLean, has been trying for several years to develop a new campus on a property near the intersection of Hunter Mill and Crowell roads, on the Vienna-Reston border.
The original approved transportation plan included a roundabout at the intersection of Hunter Mill and Crowell – now controlled by stop signs – and placing the school’s driveway entrance on Hunter Mill.
However, as the school progressed toward development, it could not obtain the land needed for the roundabout and asked the county to allow a stoplight at the intersection instead. This also required relocating the driveway entrance to Crowell.
Residents of the neighboring communities were particularly concerned about the location of the driveway entrance on Crowell, which is near a sharp curve in the road. Some also said the traffic light would exacerbate the existing traffic problems in that area, particularly with the additional traffic from the school.
After months of holding community meetings and unsuccessfully trying to develop a consensus between the school and its neighbors, Supervisor Cathy Hudgins (D-Hunter Mill) ultimately decided that there was no other option but to allow the school to move forward with the traffic signal.
“This case is complex, and there is no other way, other than the right to disagree,” Hudgins said.
Despite assertions from county and state transportation officials that the Crowell Road entrance would meet safety standards, Supervisor Linda Smyth (D-Providence), said she still has concerns about safety.
“There were a number of issues that were balanced in the original special exception,” she said. “I think we’ve lost that balance here.”
The final version of the special exception also includes a path forward if the school is unable to obtain the land it needs to add the turn lanes and stoplight at the Hunter Mill-Crowell intersection and the turn lane from Crowell into the school driveway.
The school would still be allowed to open in that case, but would be allowed to enroll fewer students and would have strict limits on the number of vehicle trips it could generate, essentially meaning that it would need to implement a busing program.
Supervisor John Foust (D-Dranesville), who negotiated the original compromise deal to establish the roundabout because the property was in his district at that time, said he does not think the school went far enough in pursuing the roundabout. The original special exception included a provision that the school could ask the county to exercise eminent domain to obtain the land for the roundabout but the school never formally asked about it.
“That really, really troubles me that the school chose not to follow the procedures that were established,” he said.
Foust and Smyth voted against the revised special exception, which was approved 8-2.