Brookside Communities, LLC, largest developer in Fauquier County, held a public meeting on Thursday, September 5, at their community center. The intended audience was residents of Grapewood Estates, a small subdivision of well-kept homes, most 40 years old, that lies off Rogues Road next to what used to be Vint Hill Farms Station. The purpose of the meeting? Brookside Communities, LLC, the out-of state developer that has covered the farmland in New Baltimore with its version of McMansion homes for the nouveau riche, plans to use Grapewood Drive, the subdivision’s main street, as a feeder road for Brookside homeowners.
Represented by a brash young man [Wes Kennedy] with a cold voice, Brookside made it clear from the beginning that it needed this neighborhood street to connect Brookside Parkway to Rogues Road—and they were going to get it. In his words, “There’s been a connector road [Grapewood Drive] for 40 years. We see no need to build another one.”
Ten minutes after the meeting started, people at the back of the room were lamenting, “It’s a done deal.”
News about recently-announced plans for their subdivision had come as a shock to Grapewood residents only the day before, and they turned out in force to protest. An estimated 75 people showed up, quickly filling all the seats in the too-small room and lining its walls. Many of them had just come from work, others came with families, retired couples arrived with worried looks on their faces. The air conditioning was not turned on and the room quickly became oppressive. The threat was personal and imminent.
This contested street Grapewood Drive ends in a cul-de-sac about 1/8 mile from Brookside’s newly constructed parkway. If allowed to add a short addition to the street, Brookside developers will have provided their homeowners with a straight shot to Kettle Run High School and Greenville Elementary School at one end of the connected roads and Auburn Middle School at the other.
How convenient—for Brookside and its commuting parents and their I’m-not-going-to-ride-a-school bus teenagers. But what does the connection mean for Grapewood homeowners?
When their turn came, residents passionately registered their objections, foremost about safety, next about the integrity of their small community. Main points were:
But the clincher to the protests came from a member of the New Baltimore Fire Department who spoke on behalf of the senior officers of the department. “The road should not be built. It will hurt the safety of Grapewood—increase traffic and bring danger to the residents.” He also warned, “E-mails are coming.”
An unscheduled request for a show of hands from all those opposed to the hijacking of Grapewood Drive resulted in 100% of the audience opposed. The call to action was “We can’t let our little subdivision be ruined by Brookside.
As passion subsided, the protests turned to problem-solving: How to prevent Brookside from taking Grapewood Drive. One young woman spoke out loudly, “This does not have to happen.”
Attention moved to the brash young Brookside representative with the cold voice. Asked if Brookside would delay the planned takeover of Grapewood Drive until the subdivision could prepare a response, he revised the request mockingly, “Hey, we want to crush you. Can you wait?”
Then he added: “We could have waited until the day the bulldozers showed up to tell you.”
Arrogant, yes. Chilling, yes.
This is the development that advertises itself as “nestled in the countryside of Fauquier County,” an entity pleasant, harmonious and wonderful to behold. But beware. It’s more akin to the entity in the movie “Alien,” a creature that invaded a host’s body, gradually consuming and destroying it.
Fauquier County has been a gracious host to the Brookside Management team for over a decade while the team has derided and dismissed Fauquier’s leaders. Take, for example, the boast in the Brookside newsletter of July 4, 2007, entitled “Brookside Delivers Extra Pool to Community”:
“Understanding the need for recreational amenities irrespective of the County’s approval process, Brookside Communities, LLC decided to act upon its instincts and has now delivered the fully finished Pool and Recreation Facility for the benefit of the current and future residents of Brookside.”
So Brookside feels it can “act on its instincts” rather than follow the law in Fauquier County. Interesting concept in a democracy—sounds rather lawless to me. Further, notice that improvements in the Brookside Community are “for the benefit of the current and future residents of Brookside.”
Where does that leave Grapewood Estates residents who are told to give up their lifestyle and privacy for “current and future residents of Brookside?”
Answer: They are left out in the cold along with the abused and disrespected Board of Supervisors and county planners. It’s time for leaders in Fauquier County to “man up” and say no to Brookside demands.
It is developments such as Brookside that bring in the people who will be demanding that the manger display on Main Street at Christmas be removed or that the Pledge of Allegiance be taken out of schools or that Fauquier’s Confederate history be disavowed. When that happens, the transformation is complete: The host is destroyed and the Alien reigns. Hello Brookside County, goodbye Fauquier.
As Grapewood residents pointed out—the Board of Supervisors can stop it. They can—and should—say no to the seizure of Grapewood Drive. They can halt the transformation of Fauquier County; they can put an end to the constant push for special benefits for Brookside residents. They can make a priority of the welfare of New Baltimore residents as a whole.
Then they must steel themselves for what comes next: Brookside’s 900 homes on Vint Hill.
The story will continue.