The normally cooperative, neighborly relationship between the Girl Scouts and the neighbors of one of their camps in Oakton has become strained over a proposed storage facility on the camp property.
Residents of Justin Knoll Road, which has 10 homes and is also the main entrance to the Girl Scouts’ Camp Crowell, are fighting the proposed facility because they say it belongs in an industrial or business district, not a residential community.
“This is a fairly quiet, bucolic area. People ride their horses back here,” said Justin Knoll resident Tom Davis. “It’s going to fundamentally change the character of the neighborhood.”
Lidia Soto-Harmon, CEO of the Girl Scout Council of the Nation’s Capital, doesn’t see it that way. The facility will be a low-key site that will have little impact on the neighbors, she said.
“It’s not that we’re a warehouse distribution center with 18-wheelers coming in and out all day and night,” she said.
The facility, which is now located in rented space in Merrifield, is primarily used to store tents and other camping equipment that Girl Scouts troops can rent. There are also bins with program materials that troop leaders can borrow to do certain activities or lessons and a collection of old uniforms and Girl Scout memorabilia that girls can borrow for projects and activities.
They need to move to a new facility because the site in Merrifield is going to be redeveloped, Soto-Harmon said, and she believes it is more fiscally prudent to build a building on property they own, rather than continuing to lease space.
Soto-Harmon also said the council has already made multiple changes to its plan in an effort to appease concerns from the neighbors, such as changing the color of the building, agreeing not to build a new road on the property and not requesting an increase in the number of campers it can accommodate at the site.
They also agreed not to allow troop leaders to come to the site to pick up materials. Instead, there will be a van on site that will deliver requested materials to other offices and locations around the region.
Despite the changes, Justin Knoll residents don’t believe the facility belongs there, said resident Kathy Whitcraft.
Because it will serve the entire Girl Scout Council of the Nation’s Capital, which includes Northern Virginia, Washington, D.C., Maryland and West Virginia, Whitcraft views it as a regional distribution center, rather than something serving Camp Crowell. Therefore, Justin Knoll residents don’t believe it is in line with county zoning rules.
The proposed new 6,000 square foot building will have a visual impact on surrounding homes because it sits on the outer edge of the 68-acre property and will require trees to be removed, Whitcraft said.
The camp does have another entrance from Vale Road, and the community would have preferred the building to be located on that side of the property.
Soto-Harmon said the Vale entrance currently is a gravel road and it would be prohibitively expensive to make it suitable for this use. There are also a number of restrictions on the property due to environmental regulations, she said.
Neighbors are also concerned about an increase in commercial traffic from UPS and FedEx trucks they believe would be delivering materials to the site, as well as the Girl Scouts’ van that will be making deliveries around the region each day.
Soto-Harmon said that they have submitted the plan to the Virginia Department of Transportation and that VDOT found a negligible impact from the facility.
Another concern is the precedent it sets, Davis said.
“If you can do this here, what stops someone else” from putting other industrial uses in residential neighborhoods, he said.
After a handful of meetings between the community and representatives of the Girl Scouts, the two sides still appear unlikely to reach a consensus solution.
The next meeting on the proposed facility will be at the Aug. 21 meeting of the Sully District Council of Citizens Associations Land Use and Transportation Committee. It will go before the Planning Commission in September and the Board of Supervisors in October.