1. How long has the Lorton Community Center been planned? (See timeline)
In September 1981, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors acquired approximately seven acres of land located at 9518 Richmond Highway with the vision to provide multiple public uses such as a neighborhood library, community center and public park. The Fairfax County Park Authority completed a Master Plan for the seven acres in 1984 to implement the Board’s vision of providing a unified public amenity that is easily accessible, convenient and functional to serve the diverse needs of the Lorton community.
As the community continued to evolve, the recommendations of the 1984 Master Plan were validated by two feasibility studies, which identified the need for a public park and two public facilities—a library and a community center. The first feasibility study conducted in 1998 identified an approximately 17,000 SF scope for the project and was based on the pre-existing Lorton Library and a new community center. In 2008, Fairfax County completed a second feasibility study that confirmed the site could accommodate the Lorton Community Center and an expanded parking lot. At that time, due to the changing demographics of the area and the County’s trend to collocate services, the project scope was increased to 32,905 SF, to include a gymnasium.
In November 2016, Fairfax County voters approved a Human Services and Community Development Bond Referendum, which provided funding for the Lorton Community Center. The project is currently in the adopted FY 2018-2022 Capital Improvement Program with a Total Project Estimate of $18.5 million.
2. How was the Lorton Library/Lorton Park site selected for this project?
The Lorton Library/Lorton Park site was acquired in 1981 with the intent to build a community center and library. As part of the planning and design process, County staff and the Lorton Community Center Steering Committee carefully considered four sites for the future community center:
- Lorton Library/Lorton Park (staff and steering committee recommendation)
Collocating the Lorton Community Center and Lorton Library provides an opportunity to anchor a growing area of the Mount Vernon District, where the benefits of a community center are most needed and can be extended to other communities. The site contains several key existing features that will be retained and/or modernized, including the specimen tree, a grass rectangular field inside the oval walking path, playground and picnic areas. Combined with new indoor amenities, enhanced outdoor play areas, improved parking and traffic flow, this site provides the most flexibility to create an important community asset to meet existing and future needs. The site also provides the greatest collocation opportunity to create synergy between the senior and teen center, the Lorton Community Action Center (LCAC), and the community center, with the existing Library services. Additionally, census data demonstrates this site is closest in proximity to the communities most in need of the services the community center will provide.
- Lorton Road/Railway Track
On February 5, 2018, the Lorton Community Center Steering Committee unanimously agreed to eliminate the Lorton Road/Railway Track site from the site selection process. However, after the February 13 South County Federation meeting, the committee agreed to revisit the Lorton Road/Railway Track site. At the March 5 Steering Committee meeting, a vote was taken and committee consensus was to not move forward with the Lorton Road/Railway Track site.
This site is not located within the community that has the greatest need for the services the future Lorton Community Center is intended to provide. Additionally, the relocation of the LCAC, as a part of this project, would be further away from the residents it serves, at a site that is not as walkable as the Lorton Library/Lorton Park location. The County’s Comprehensive Plan, County staff and the Steering Committee recommend the LCAC remain at the Lorton Library/Lorton Park site. The Lorton Road/Railway Track site is currently part of the Comprehensive Plan which envisions the property to be used as a future mixed-use town center.
In addition, the Board of Supervisors recently supported the concept of “community schools”. Community schools contain a host of built-in opportunities and supports that provide students and parents with integrated and synchronized tools which would offer a personalized curriculum to improve student learning, and health and social services to foster stronger families and healthier communities. The Lorton Station ES, located adjacent to the Lorton Road/Railway Track site, will be able to leverage and share its assets as a hub to bring together many partners to offer a range of supports and opportunities to the children, youth, and families who attend the school.
- Pohick Road Tennis Court
On February 5, 2018, the Steering Committee unanimously agreed to eliminate the Pohick Road Tennis Court site from the site selection process.
This site is owned by the Park Authority and includes three tennis courts and several steep slopes that increase construction challenges. Current access to this site requires driving through a residential area, which is not desirable. Also, this site does not align with the County’s goals of collocating services.
- Richmond Hwy/Noman M. Cole (opposite Lorton Library)
At the February 5, 2018 meeting, the Steering Committee requested County staff provide additional information on the Richmond Hwy/Noman M. Cole site. On March 5, based on the site test fit and increased project costs associated with this location, the Steering Committee unanimously agreed to eliminate the Richmond Hwy/Noman M. Cole site from the site selection process.
This site was approved for purchase by the Board of Supervisors with Sewer System Enterprise Funds for the expansion of the Noman M. Cole, Jr., Pollution Control Plant. Use of the site for any other permanent purpose other than the wastewater treatment plant that serves Fairfax County, such as the Lorton Community Center, would require Board approval and would not be supported by Department of Public Works and Environmental Services. In addition, if the site is used for any other purpose than a sewer project, the project would need to reimburse the sewer funds.
Furthermore, the site is approximately 4.5 acres. The buildable area is significantly reduced by steep slopes, Resource Protection Area (RPA), and future right-of-way (ROW) dedication for the widening of Richmond Highway. The design consultant performed a site feasibility study taking into consideration the site requirements and constraints, ultimately determining that this site alone is not large enough to accommodate the community center and its parking lot. An additional approximately 0.85 acres Board property to the south of the site, with two tennis courts and a basketball court for public use, would need to be added to the overall site to be accommodate the community center and parking lot, eliminating the courts. There are also contaminated soils at this site, and the remediation of these soils will add additional cost to the project budget.
Finally, based on community input, a pedestrian bridge would be required to provide safe access across Richmond Highway at a cost of $1.5 million to $2.0 million.
3. Was the Lorton Library/Lorton Park site purchased with 1981 Park Bond funding?
The property was a joint purchase between the Board (library), the Housing Authority and the Park Authority to provide parkland and build a library and community center. As outlined in the agreement, the Housing Authority funded $94,000 plus paid the settlement costs, the Board/library funded $50,000 and Park Bonds funded $256,000 of the purchase price. The Board loaned the Park Authority $256,000 from the Library Fund until the 1982 Park Bond was approved and the Park Authority paid back the $256,000 to the Library Fund.
4. What amenities will the Lorton Community Center provide?
The new community center will include a gymnasium, a fitness room, a game room, a kitchen, an art room and multipurpose rooms to be used for various activities and events like after-school programs, senior activities, computer and technology programs, therapeutic recreation, various classes, etc. These amenities will be available to any community member, including but not limited to seniors, adults, youth and families. The project will provide a playground and a picnic area, including picnic tables. The community will be invited to help select equipment.
5. Will the building be large enough to serve the entire community?
In remaining consistent with the county’s desire to build multiuse facilities, all Fairfax County community centers serve the diverse needs of children, youth, adults and older adults in their surrounding communities. In addition to creating efficiencies in providing services, this model also encourages the benefits of multigenerational programming opportunities that bring communities together. Our Neighborhood and Community Services staff work closely with the centers’ advisory councils (made up of participants at each location) to coordinate and plan activities that meet the needs and interests of participants and that provide equitable access to available resources.
6. How big will the new Lorton Community Center be?
The building will be approximately 30,000 square feet. The size of the building is a balance of needs, space and budget. A building space program was first developed to identify the requirements and operations of the planned community center occupants. The spaces were then developed into an overall building concept addressing the various functions and adjacencies. Additional building square footage, even with a second floor, would require an increase in parking spaces and reduce green space. Building a second floor would also require additional square footage for elevators, stairs, and circulation, taking away from programmable area that could serve the community.
7. Will the existing park area be reduced?
The entire property is approximately seven acres. The existing park, as defined by the path around the open grass area, is approximately 1.9 acres. Based on the preliminary layout, this park area will be approximately 1.7 acres after the entire project is complete, reducing the current size by approximately 0.2 acres, or about 10%.
8. Why is LCAC, a nonprofit, going into this building? How much space are they being given?
The Lorton Community Action Center (LCAC) has leased the “Murphy House” since 1984 with approximately 2,000 SF and has leased the adjacent trailer since 2011 with 1,904 SF, for a total of approximately 3,904 SF. The current design concept for the new facility provides 4,000 SF for LCAC.
The LCAC has served the Fairfax County community since 1975 providing basic needs assistance, including weekly food through the pantry for more than 200 households; emergency rent and utility assistance to prevent homelessness; seasonal programs to meet school, holiday and winter coat needs; adult and children’s educational opportunities; after school programs and school break/summer lunch and programmatic opportunities. A facility assessment report was performed on the Murphy House in 2003 that showed the building in need of extensive and costly renovations, including meeting accessibility requirements. Combining LCAC into the single facility provides synergies and efficiencies between the three organizations: LCAC, Library, and Community Center.
9. How did you calculate the parking for the new building?
The parking requirements for the community center are determined based on the Zoning Ordinance. Article 11-104, item 18, states: “Recreational Facility other than Theatre, Auditorium, Stadium, Bowling Alley or Swimming Pool: One (1) space per three (3) persons based on the occupancy load plus one (1) space per employee.” In addition, Article 11-106.22 outlines that the Director of LDS determines the parking supply for this use considering such factors as the number of employees, public use vehicles, visitors, and the availability of areas for auxiliary parking. Based on the above, there will be a total of 175 parking spaces for the Lorton Community Center and the Lorton Library.
10. How will traffic be impacted by the addition of the community center?
An analysis to determine the impact of traffic generated by the proposed development on the surrounding roadway network was completed in March 2018. The traffic analysis concluded:
- The proposed development of the Community Center is anticipated to have minimal to no impact on the study intersections when compared to background traffic conditions.
- The Community Center will not generate any traffic in the morning peak hour. The traffic that is generated in the afternoon peak hour is minimal (37 total trips) and will not impact the adjacent intersections regardless of the site location.
- Since the site traffic is minimal, moving the location of the proposed development to the eastern side of US Route 1 will have minimal to no impact on the results of the analysis.
The perpendicular parking spaces along the entrance drive of the library site will be relocated to the back of the buildings to improve the traffic movement into and out of the site. Currently, cars backing into the main drive aisle impede the flow of traffic.
Based on the Comprehensive Plan, Richmond Highway will be widened to six lanes and include a mass transit project in the median, increasing the ROW to 176 feet for Richmond Highway. This will ultimately cause the elimination of the service road in front of the Library.
11. What is the difference between a community center and a RECenter?
Fairfax County’s nine community centers are run by Neighborhood and Community Services and offer recreation-and leisure-based programs. Community centers also fulfill Human Service needs in the surrounding community, including educational and technology programs, skill development opportunities, inclusion programs and social clubs, community events and prevention programs. Access to community centers is free to county residents; however, some programs and class offerings may have a nominal associated fee.
RECenters provide a variety of facilities, programs and camps for people all ages and are not geared to a specific sector of the County population, such as youth or seniors. Back in the late 1970s and early ‘80s County leadership made the decision that the Park Authority would be responsible for developing, owning and operating facilities to provide indoor aquatics for high school swim teams, swim clubs and the public in Fairfax County. Park Authority charges fees to cover the cost of operating the facilities. As such, RECenters are fee based and need to recover at least 100 percent of operating costs for the facilities and for staff salaries. No County General Funds are provided for operations.
12. What are some other community centers that the county operates?
Fairfax County currently operates nine community centers:
- Bailey’s Community Center (Falls Church)
- Gum Springs Community Center (Alexandria)
- Huntington Community Center (Alexandria)
- James Lee Community Center (Falls Church)
- Mott Community Center (Fairfax)
- David R. Pinn Community Center (Fairfax)
- Providence Community Center (Fairfax)
- Southgate Community Center (Reston)
- Willston Multicultural Center (Falls Church)
13. What are the planned hours of operation?
Community Center hours are generally Monday – Saturday 9 a.m. to 10 p.m.
14. How has community input impacted the design of the project?
Community engagement has been and continues to be an important part of this process. Supervisor Storck formed the Lorton Community Center Steering Committee, composed of key stakeholders in the community, last summer to begin the planning process. As the project has grown, additional stakeholders have been identified and the first community meeting was held. The next steps include the most important public engagement opportunities as we work with the community to determine final design, facility amenities and services.
Specific examples of changes made by community input include:
- The 2008 Feasibility Study showed the community center to the north of the site. Based on the community input, it was moved to the south of the site along Richmond Highway to preserve open space.
- There has been a focus to combine the Library with the Community Center to maximize the synergies between the facilities and increase the efficiencies of the overall building.
- The site is being designed to maximize the defined park area by positioning the building as close to Richmond Highway as possible.
- The community stressed the importance of the existing trees. A site visit was held with the County’s urban foresters to determine which trees to preserve, including the white oak behind the existing LCAC, among others. The County’s Tree Ordinance requires 20 percent tree canopy on this site, as measured after ten years of growth. Every effort is being made to preserve existing trees, and new trees will be planted as necessary.
- The new location of the Community Center increases the buffer area with the neighboring communities to the northwest.
- The Community Center’s gymnasium was relocated closer to Richmond Highway to decrease the massing from the community.
15. How are you doing outreach to the community?
- Project website
- Surveyed residents about potential uses
- Posters about the project placed throughout community
- Steering Committee includes community leaders
- Community meetings provide direct access to the project team and Mount Vernon District Supervisor
16. Who is on the steering committee?
The Steering Committee consists of 10 community members, chosen as representatives of the diverse community interests in this project, including Lorton neighbors, seniors, youth, businesses and the LCAC. The Steering Committee was tasked with making recommendations for the design, implementation and execution of the Lorton Community Center, and act as liaisons with the community.
- Karen Corbett-Sanders Mount Vernon District School Board Representative
- Martin Rizer South County Federation, Former Land Use Chair
- Linda Patterson Lorton Community Action Center Executive Director
- Elsa Galvan Resident of Hagel Circle & Lorton Community Action Center User
- Peter Weyland Vice Chair, South Fairfax Chamber of Commerce Lorton & Community Action Center Board Member
- Betty Dang Resident of Summit Oaks
- Temecca Gallman-Wright Resident of Hagel Circle
- Howard Bishop President of Williamsburg Square HOA
- Chris Ambrose President of Shepherd Hills HOA
- Angela Rosado President of the Lorton Senior Center
17. What are the next steps?
The planned use for the community center at the site is in conformance with the Comprehensive Plan based on current land use and zoning. A 2232 determination is required for all public facilities. In addition, a special exception is required for the non-profit use, Lorton Community Action Center, to be incorporated into the Community Center building.
Per discussions with the Zoning Evaluations Division, a 2232 process with a public hearing is required due to the size of the building, and a Special Exception Amendment is due to a non-profit organization being included in the public building. However, the Comprehensive Plan (page 18 Figure 6 Lower Potomac Planning District) shows the Library, LCAC and a senior center (the senior center was never built). Therefore, the final decision about whether to process this as a “feature shown” or hold a public hearing is up to the Planning Commissioner.