Mason Neck gets closer to construction of new fire station
Earlier this month, the Fairfax County Planning Commission determined that the proposed new Gunston Fire Station in Lorton conforms with the county’s Comprehensive Plan, paving the way for the permitting and construction of the facility in 2024.
Plans have been in the works for several years to replace the existing Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Station #20 along Gunston Road on Mason Neck. That firehouse, built in 1976, has outdated building systems, undersized apparatus bays, insufficient space for water rescue equipment and operations support functions, and inadequate facilities for female firefighters, according to county documents.
Back in 2018, the county passed a bond referendum of $13 million to renovate or replace the firehouse.
Three years later, the Department of Public Works and Environmental Services (DPWES) held two community meetings to gather public feedback on early design concepts. The county was proposing the construction of a two-story, 15,000-square-foot building with four apparatus bays next to the existing one-story, 7,400-square-foot station with two bays. Firefighters would continue operating out of the old facility until the new one was ready. Then the old station would be demolished. This approach was similar to the one taken with the new Woodlawn Fire Station a few years ago.
Leaders of the Mason Neck Citizens Association (MNCA) encouraged community members to attend the county’s December 2021 community meeting to help steer the design and development of the project.
“We were hoping to influence the Fairfax County design to be more aesthetically pleasing to the rural, equestrian nature of Mason Neck,” said Peter Weyland, a member of MNCA’s board.
Design development by RRMM Architects took place in 2022. In March 2023, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors (BOS) approved an 11-month extension of the review period for DPWES’ 2232 application to Jan. 9, 2024. A 2232 review determines the compatibility of proposed public facilities with Comprehensive Plan guidelines. In November 2023, the Board approved another extension of the review period until April 2024 as a precautionary measure. According to Board documents, the extension was necessary because DPWES was working through some design changes, delaying the review period.
At the Dec. 6 Planning Commission meeting, commissioners praised the proposed fire station’s inclusive accommodations and highlighted the importance of the station in performing water rescues. Commissioner Walter Clarke from the Mount Vernon District said construction of the new fire station was “long overdue” and “much needed,” and made the motion to find it in accordance with the county’s Comprehensive Plan.
According to a DPWES spokesperson, the next step for the Gunston Fire Station project is to complete the design documents, obtain permits and, through the bid process, select a general contractor for construction, which is scheduled to begin in summer 2024. The project is expected to be complete in fall 2026, at least a year later than originally envisioned.
“The Gunston Fire Station planning and design has continued smoothly over the past year and is nearing completion,” said Mount Vernon District Supervisor Dan Storck. “I look forward to groundbreaking on the new station in summer 2024 to provide a new, state-of-the-art station for both our firefighters and the residents they serve.”
DPWES declined to provide current design renderings for the new station; however, recent county documents describe a two-story, four-bay facility of around 17,577 square feet, including a 277-square-foot detached outdoor storage building in the rear of the parking lot. One of the bays will be used for a marine rescue boat, which presently is housed in a tent outside the existing facility. The station’s exterior design is described as incorporating “natural brick and stone with wood-like metal panel cladding and wood trellises to accentuate the rural and rustic setting of the surrounding environment.”
According to county documents, the first floor of the building will contain the apparatus bays, administrative offices, common living areas, kitchen, dayroom, dining room, visitor restroom and support spaces for facility operations. The second floor will provide gender-neutral living quarters for station personnel, bunk rooms, support spaces, laundry facilities, lockers, showers and restrooms. The station will house a crew of up to 12 firefighters at each of three 24-hour shifts for a total of 36 employees.
The new facility will be built on land leased from NOVA Parks in an area presently covered with large, native deciduous and evergreen trees, though the county said it will have a “small footprint for minimal impact to the site.” The fire station will have “green” features, including roof-based solar panels, geothermal heating and cooling systems, and electric vehicle charging stations. Stormwater management facilities will be provided to improve stormwater quality at the site.
Part of an unpaved horse trail that currently runs through the woods next to the existing fire station may need to be relocated to accommodate the new station, according to county staff, and the current 8-foot-wide, paved multiuse trail in front of the new facility will be widened to 10 feet to meet Virginia Department of Transportation standards. Overall, traffic and noise around the facility may increase slightly due to more apparatus bays and personnel, said the staff report.
Once the old station is demolished, the site will be restored with natural and low maintenance vegetation and returned to NOVA Parks as parkland, according to the county.
The Gunston Fire Station’s address will remain 10417 Gunston Road.