One of the few privately maintained stormwater management facilities left in Fairfax County may eventually come under county control.
The Kingstowne Residential Owners Corporation sent a petition to Lee District Supervisor Jeff McKay on July 10 asking the county to take over maintenance and other responsibilities for Kingstowne Lake, a 14-acre stormwater management facility at the corner of Van Dorn Street and Kingstowne Village Parkway in Alexandria.
An umbrella homeowners’ association that represents more than 5,300 homes, the Kingstowne Residential Owners Corporation, or KROC, shares ownership of Kingstowne Lake with the Kingstowne Commercial Owners Corporation, which represents businesses and developers in the area and is currently responsible for the lake’s day-to-day care.
Kingstowne Lake is formally overseen by the Kingstowne Lake Management Committee, which has four members nominated by KROC, one nominated by the commercial owners’ corporation, and representatives designated by Fairfax County Parks and Recreation and the Department of Public Works and Environmental Services.
KROC has petitioned Fairfax County to take over maintenance of Kingstowne Lake to transfer some of the liability associated with the facility away from the homeowners’ association, KROC general manager Kathy Beaulne said in a statement.
“The request to turn this facility over to the county with its protection of sovereign immunity is an important reason for this request,” KROC president Kathleen Snyder said in the letter from the organization’s board of trustees to McKay’s office. “If the transfer of responsibility is successful, it will remove a substantial liability from the shoulders of the homeowners association which they should not have to bear.”
This is not the first time KROC has petitioned Fairfax County to take over responsibility for its local stormwater management facilities.
According to Karlee Copeland, Fairfax County’s stormwater management chief, the county received a request from KROC in the 2005 to 2006 timeframe to transfer maintenance responsibilities for all of its stormwater management facilities, including Kingstowne Lake.
The public facilities manual that sets design standards for development in Fairfax County allows the county to maintain dry ponds, which are designed to hold stormwater temporarily before releasing it into a nearby stream, in residential areas, but the county generally does not provide maintenance for wet ponds, which retain water permanently.
Because Kingstowne Lake is a wet pond and regulated by the state, Fairfax County opted to take it out of KROC’s transfer request and to just take over the dry ponds, Copeland says.
Fairfax County is currently processing KROC’s new transfer request, but it will likely not be a quick decision, according to Caleb Lester, the director of communications for McKay’s office.
County staff said in a KROC meeting on Aug. 14 that the takeover process for Kingstowne’s dry ponds stretched on for about five years.
Through its environmental committee, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved four pilot projects to test a new draft process for allowing public maintenance of privately owned stormwater management facilities on Feb. 7, 2017.
After undergoing a thorough inspection to determine the condition of the facility, the county talks with the private landowner about how to handle any needed maintenance. Attorneys work on transferring the land rights before developing a new land record agreement and easements outlining each party’s responsibilities, according to Copeland.
Once the maintenance work is completed and the new easement signed, the facility becomes county infrastructure and is added to the county’s schedule for preventative maintenance.
While one the facility did not need maintenance and has already been transferred to the county’s inventory, two of the other projects require extensive maintenance that remains ongoing, and the county is still working on transferring land rights for the fourth pilot.
“I think the complexity of Kingstowne is going to take even longer,” Copeland said.
While having the county take over responsibility for Kingstowne Lake would benefit KROC by reducing maintenance and insurance costs, some Kingstowne residents say these discussions have largely gone on without the involvement of the full community.
Alexandria resident Peter MacDowell formed the Kingstowne Lake Improvement Association in January when he and some fellow residents became tired of seeing trash wash into the lake after rain storms.
As a Kingstowne resident, MacDowell is a member of KROC, but the lake improvement association is open to any member of the public who uses or cares about the facility.
In addition to picking up litter, the Kingstowne Lake Improvement Association has raised concerns about flooding and a lack of lighting in some parts of the walking path that encircles the lake.
MacDowell says he was walking around the lake on Aug. 3 when he heard an altercation in an area where two out of the three nearby overhead lights had stopped working. He called 911.
It turned out that MacDowell had heard a person getting stabbed.
The Fairfax County Police Department confirmed to the Fairfax County Times that officers had responded to a report of an assault involving a knife shortly after 9:00 p.m. that day in the 5800 block of Kingstowne Center.
“The victim was taken to the hospital with injuries that were not life-threatening,” the FCPD says. “This case remains an active investigation.”
While fences to keep trash out of the lake have since been installed by the Halle Companies, the developer that owns the nearby Kingstowne Towne Center, KROC says that community lighting is under the purview of Dominion Energy, and the cost of installing new lights would be about $45,000, not including the expense of installing a power source, removing trees, and repairing the path, according to MacDowell.
Budget and policy decisions are generally made at the annual meeting of the Kingstowne Lake Management Committee, but MacDowell says he has not been told when the meeting will take place or whether community members may attend, though he acknowledges that the committee is a private entity and not obligated to make their meetings public.
Still, he believes the larger community should be more involved in discussions about the lake’s future.
Kingstowne Lake is officially a stormwater management facility designed to collect floodwaters and control water quality, but many residents have come to treat it more like a park, using the trail around the lake to walk their dogs or as a shortcut to the Kingstowne Towne Center.
“Legally, it is still a storm water management facility and is treated such by the private entity, but it also has become a thriving ecosystem,” Chancery Homeowners Association president Eric Anderson said.
Chancery is a neighborhood of 170 condominiums in the North Village section of Kingstowne, and the homeowners’ association consists of all condos on the lake.
“The people who use the lake, live on the lake want a say,” MacDowell said. “They want the fine print of any agreement of the county taking over to specify serious maintenance and solutions to the problems that we've identified, and KROC and Halle seem to be most interested in payment.”