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Local Residents Battle Washington Gas Over Pimmit Barns

PIMMIT BARN, located at 1845 Cherri Dr., Falls Church, will celebrate its 80th birthday next year. It’s the Beltway’s only still-standing dairy barn. (Photo: News-Press)
PIMMIT BARN, located at 1845 Cherri Dr., Falls Church, will celebrate its 80th birthday next year. It’s the Beltway’s only still-standing dairy barn. (Photo: News-Press)

It’s David v. Goliath in Pimmit Hills where an “ongoing battle” between area residents and Washington Gas is underway over a proposed easement the gas company wants to install in Pimmit Hills to connect existing pipes with new pipes.

The debated easement location is at one of the community’s few remaining green spaces, which contains Pimmit Barn, the Beltway’s only still-standing dairy barn which will celebrate its 80th birthday next year. It’s located at 1845 Cherri Drive in the Falls Church area of Fairfax County.

Weighing in are the Fairfax County Park Authority which owns the land (and grants easements) and Fairfax County Supervisor John Foust who sides with the citizens but believes there may be some opposition to the opposition.

Connie Cordovilla has lived in Pimmit Hills since 1976 and is a board member of the Friends of Pimmit Barn.

“Pimmit Hills is used as a throwaway enclave because we don’t have big grand houses, but we’re a close knit community, and we’re not going away,” she said. (A drive through the community, however, reveals many tear downs and “big, grand houses” going up.)

“None of us want to stand in the way of progress, but their equipment won’t serve us really, and why can’t they find someplace else?” Cordovilla wonders.

Washington Gas is trying.

Its media relations manager is Bernie Tylor, who replied by email to easement questions. “Yes, the gas company has been meeting regularly with residents and the Park Authority and has been looking at other sites,” he said. The Pimmit Hills Alternative High School is one mentioned by Foust and the Park Authority.

“Washington Gas continues to explore our options for an appropriate location that will meet the company’s requirements for regulating equipment supporting this project. For the purposes of this project, the location must be close to existing and new lines have to be connected and maintain the natural gas feeds.”

Responding to public outcry, the private company offered to put the equipment underground, but Cordovilla says “it will have metal grates and constant noise, like a vacuum cleaner,” of 40 – 60 decibels and what can you do with metal grates in a park? Play percussion?

And how does that visual comport with a park setting?

What about trucks and maintenance?

Another longtime Pimmit Hills resident, Gretchen Jacobs, believes gas regulators at the site “would be a permanent, profound insult” to the community and would violate the Park Authority’s mission to protect and enhance county resources.

Meanwhile, the Park Authority, an independent body which makes its own easement decisions and holds the key to approval, is not saying much. It has no timeline for this project: “We are just waiting for Washington Gas to come back to the community,” said David Bowden, the Park Authority’s director of Planning & Development.

Supervisor Foust says he is “going to support the citizens’ position, but I’m not sure the full community has been heard.

“I would encourage the Park Authority to come down on the side of the citizens and work with them in a cooperative way. If there is strong opposition, I’m sure the Park Authority will look for alternatives.”

The barn’s Friends are building forces and voices, enlisting support from McLean residents whose Youth Athletic League has rented the first floor of the barn for storage equipment for several years and report there’s nothing nearly as cheap nearby to lease, according to a 2013 report from WAMU.

Meanwhile, disagreements can’t stop fun in the park.

Saturday, April 30 is free outdoor movie night at the Barn. The children’s film “Despicable Me” will be screened with free popcorn starting at 7:15 p.m.