The South County Police Station and Animal Shelter will not open until 2022, but interest in the new facility is already high, judging by the crowd that packed the Workhouse Arts Center’s Vulcan Muse Gallery in Lorton for a June 13 community meeting on the project.
Located on a 14-acre plot of land at the corner of Lorton and Workhouse Roads, the joint police station and animal shelter will let the Fairfax County Police Department operate more reliably and efficiently in the South County area, while also giving residents convenient access an animal shelter, according to county officials.
The facility will enhance the county services available to the surrounding community, something that has been long overdue, Mount Vernon District Supervisor Dan Storck says.
“The Lorton community is a growing, vibrant community that needs public resources,” Storck said. “Adding a police station, animal shelter, a community center, a new fire station, those are all things that help to reinforce the hundreds of millions of dollars that the county has already spent here on new schools and recreational facilities.”
In addition to the police station and animal shelter, Fairfax County is planning to build a 30,000-square foot community center next to the Lorton Community Library on Richmond Highway, and construction is currently underway on a new Lorton Volunteer Fire Station, which will be located on the same site as the existing building.
According to the presentation given by the county at the community meeting, Fairfax County has included a potential South County District Police Station in its comprehensive plan since 2001.
The 2003 edition of the Fairfax County Comprehensive Plan calls on the Lower Potomac Planning District to assess the need for a police station in the vicinity of the Lorton Fire Station to serve the southeastern part of the county.
However, work on the project did not begin in earnest until 2015 when Fairfax County voters passed a $151 million public safety bond referendum in the Nov. 3 general elections. The bond included funding for improvements to five fire stations, five police facilities, and a new animal shelter.
$30 million from that public safety bond has been delegated to the South County Police Station and the adjoined animal shelter.
According to Storck, Fairfax County always planned to combine the police station and animal shelter into the same facility in order to minimize both construction and operational costs.
Situated on Lorton Road between its Workhouse and Hooes Road intersections, the co-located facilities will consist of a 39,000 square-foot, two-floor police station and a 23,000 square-foot animal shelter.
The Fairfax County Department of Public Works and Environmental Services is overseeing the project with design input from the FCPD, Fairfax County Animal Shelter staff, and the private engineering firm AECOM.
Storck also assembled an eight-person steering committee tasked with making design recommendations and serving as liaisons with the local community.
The South County Federation, South Fairfax Chamber of Commerce, South County High School, and Mount Vernon District Animal Services Advisory Commission are all represented on the committee, along with the homeowners’ association presidents for the Lorton Valley, Hollymeade, and Cavanaugh Crossing neighborhoods.
Storck appointed the steering committee members in August 2017 as Fairfax County staff started to plan the project and identify a location.
Known as the Triangle for its rough shape, the final site for the police station and animal shelter was chosen out of seven potential locations, including Laurel Crest Drive, Silverbrook Road, Route 1, the Nike Missile Site near Route 123, and two other sites on Lorton Road.
According to a spreadsheet from the steering committee’s Oct. 18 meeting, the Triangle emerged as ideal for its size, fairly flat topography, adequate street presence, the availability of two access points from two different streets, and the absence of nearby wetland and railroad tracks.
Unlike several of the alternatives owned by the Fairfax County Park Authority, the Triangle was also already owned by the Board of Supervisors and has been approved for public safety use since 2001.
The steering committee spreadsheet cites the location’s proximity to residential neighborhoods, constraints due to a historic district at the southeastern end, and some unsuitable or disturbed soil as potential drawbacks of the parcel.
At roughly 14-acres in size, the Triangle will have room for 20,000 square-feet of open space for the animal shelter, parking lots, and an access road with a fuel island for the police fleet and other county vehicles.
While the interior logistics and design are still in the relatively early stages, current concepts for the building have two community rooms, including one specifically for the animal shelter.
The police station is projected to have about 100 officers when it opens in 2022, and the space will accommodate the FCPD’s Animal Protection Police, which assists with reports of stray pets, neglect or cruelty, and other encounters between people and animals.
Fairfax County has spent the past couple of years adding new police positions to prepare for the South County Police District Station opening. The Fiscal Year 2017 and 2018 budgets included a combined 20 new positions, and the adopted FY 2019 budget added 20 more, though it estimated that 33 additional uniformed positions would still be required to fully staff the new station.
While Fairfax County police have a patrol presence in South County, officers currently have to travel long distances to reach the area, so the new district station will help decrease response times and encourage more community engagement, FCPD Deputy Chief of Police for Patrol Lt. Col. Ted Arnn says.
“When it’s close by, people are much more likely to engage with us,” Arnn said. “…Our detectives, our commanders, our crime prevention officers who are really housed in the stations, that’s where the disconnect comes. So, we see this as a big plus for the community and certainly for our officers to find new opportunities to engage.”
Putting an animal shelter in the same building as a police station might seem like an unusual fit, but Arnn says have actually been linked for a long time, noting that the animal shelter was once part of the police department and that the Animal Protection Police are still partners with the shelter.
The Fairfax County Animal Shelter at 4500 West Ox Road in Fairfax is currently the county’s only open-access, municipal shelter.
According to its most recent annual report, the shelter received more than 4,000 dogs, cats, small animals, and poultry in 2017, more than half of whom were surrendered by owners no longer able to care for them.
In addition to pets surrendered by owners, the shelter houses animals that were abandoned or picked up as strays, seized by Animal Protection Police, and quarantined for biting, as well as transfers from other shelter facilities or rescue partners.
Almost 3,000 animals were adopted from the Fairfax County Animal Shelter in 2017, and 962 stray animals were returned to their owners. 373 animals died in the shelter, were euthanized for medical or behavioral reasons, or given end-of-life euthanasia at their owners’ request, though the shelter claims an over 90 percent positive release rate since 2013.
According to Fairfax County Animal Shelter director Karen Diviney, the South County shelter will operate similarly to the one on West Ox with full adoption services, a low-cost spay and neuter clinic, an in-shelter veterinarian clinic, a trap, neuter and trap program for community cats, educational programs, and other resources.
“Part of the idea is to be located in such a way that we can push services out to people who can’t readily access them now,” Diviney said.
The shelter is expected to be open six days per week with staff present from 7:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m., though there will also be a lot of volunteers.
By the time of the first community meeting, the South County Police Station and Animal Shelter had not undergone the 2232 Review required by the Fairfax County Planning Commission for public facility and utility proposals. The design, zoning, and permitting process is not projected to finish until late 2019 with construction expected to start in early 2020.