Flint Hill School expansion plans irk neighbors

oakton road photoOakton Road, near the proposed entrance to Flint Hill's middle school (Staff photo)

Residents of a leafy Oakton neighborhood are up in arms over a plan by Flint Hill School to add an entrance to the private school from a winding two-lane road that is already clogged with traffic during morning and afternoon rush hours.

“I am furious about this, it is nothing but rich people clogging up our streets,” said one angry resident of the Miller Heights neighborhood, an affluent enclave of several hundred homes whose streets empty onto Oakton Road and, on the other end, onto Miller Road, where traffic backs up morning and afternoon as neighborhood residents line up to drop their children off at Oakton Elementary, a nearby public school.

Flint Hill administrators have said their plan is a reasonable way to accommodate the growth of what many consider the premier private school in Northern Virginia without adding to existing congestion on Jermantown Road. Flint Hill did not respond to a request for comment from FairfaxNews.

Flint Hill’s upper school and lower school already empty onto Jermantown, a busy four-lane street that many Fairfax and Oakton residents use to get to and from I-66. The school pays for Fairfax County police officers to direct traffic outside the two school entrances during the busiest hours. Some say that helps keep traffic moving. Others say it makes it worse but speeds the Flint Hill crowd on its way.

The new entrance would be used by students at Flint Hill’s middle school, separating them from upper and lower school students, supposedly making the pick-up and drop-off process safer and more efficient.

But if you ask angry neighbors, it’s a reckless plan to pour hundreds more cars onto two-lane Oakton Road during morning and afternoon rush hours, when the BMWs and Escalades are already backed up for blocks at the intersection of Oakton and Jermantown Roads and a bit farther down the road at Jermantown and Chain Bridge Roads.

oakton road sign

Angry Oakton residents have erected signs opposing the Flint Hill expansion (staff photo).

“All about safety”

Randy Krout, a resident of the Oakton Crest community just west of Flint Hill, said his group has gathered more than 1,000 signatures on a petition it plans to present to county officials, expressing opposition to opening up Oakton Road to more traffic.

“It’s all about safety,” Krout said. “Trying to get onto Oakton Road in the morning, you’re taking a risk every time you pull out because it’s such a small country road with so much traffic. You add the complexity of hundreds of more cars, its a recipe for disaster.”

Krout notes that besides commuter traffic, public school buses also rumble along Oakton Road, stopping frequently to pick up and discharge neighborhood school children. “It would be 100 percent better to just have more traffic come in from Jermantown,” as had originally been proposed, he said.

“We’re not opposed to the school, it’s the notion of changing plans and putting more traffic and more left and right turns on what is just a narrow, winding two-lane country road,” Krout said.

Country roads

Krout said other area residents are also concerned about the plans, although most have not yet taken a formal stand against the proposal.

The largest nearby neighborhood, Miller Heights, consists of several hundred homes on large, heavily-treed lots intended to evoke a rural setting. There are no sidewalks, street lights or other traffic safety measures on the neighborhood’s hilly, winding streets other than an occasional speed bump. Bike and hiking trails that were promised decades ago never materialized and residents must walk or bike along the shoulders of the increasingly busy roads. The Miller Heights Neighborhoods Association did not respond to a request for comment.

One disgruntled Miller Heights resident said some rather basic road improvements might reduce opposition to the plan.

“This would not be nearly as much of a problem if we had some improvements to Oakton Road. We can’t get out of our own neighborhoods in the morning,” he said, asking that his name not be used because he has changed his legal residence to Florida. “If we had a three-way stop or a traffic light, it would make things a lot better.”

But Linda Q. Smyth, the Fairfax County supervisor who represents the Providence District, said road improvements are a separate issue. “That’s a matter for VDOT and is outside the area under consideration in this case.”

Smyth said she has not taken a position on the Flint Hill matter but might do so after the Fairfax Planning Commission holds a hearing on the school’s proposal on June 28. (Citizens wishing to speak must sign up prior to 3 p.m. the day of the hearing).

“That’s why we have hearings — so we can hear what everyone has to say, and you’d be surprised the things that often come out of these hearings,” she said.

 

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James R. Hood
James R. Hood is the editor and publisher of FairfaxNews.com. A former Associated Press editor and executive, he has more than 50 years of reporting experience.