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Stafford site has erosion problems

A muddy construction site in North Stafford may be turning into a potentially hazardous situation.

That’s at least how Everett Lovell, owner of Aquia Pines Camp Resort, feels about a failing slope along his property line.

A four-story, 60,500-square-foot Homes2 Suites by Hilton is being built on the adjacent lot along the western side of U.S. 1. Grading work and construction on a retaining wall are underway.

Stafford County issued a notice of violation related to the erosion and sediment control code to the owner, Stafford Hospitality LLC.

It’s unclear what actually caused the land to slough off; county officials are blaming the weather.

But now, the campground and the hotel must agree on how the land—which crosses both of their properties—will be fixed.

On Thursday morning, Lovell described how the southern edge of his 130-hookup campsite used to slope down to the hotel’s property, where a house once stood. A row of trees acted as a shield.

That hill is gone now, and a muddy drop-off stands in its place with an exposed sewer pipe that’s been routed toward a creek.

And one of the campsite’s gravel roads has been compromised—a crack in the land has gone past the construction safety fence. Lovell fears what could happen when 44-foot buses rumble along the campsite’s property.

“It’s unsafe and it’s unsanitary,” Lovell said.

He’s making plans to stabilize the sewer system on his own, in the meantime. His property is connected to public utilities.

Then he hopes that he and the property owner of the planned 100-room extended-stay hotel can talk.

The contact listed on the hotel’s posted land-use permit, Tarun Patel, did not return a call immediately. Another property owner was said to be out of town.

This week, Stafford issued a notice of violation under the county’s code on erosion and sediment control. Essentially it means that the two property owners have to come to an agreement together and “expeditiously remedy the situation,” a county spokeswoman said.

The notice was issued because the land disturbance went outside the area permitted for work, said Stafford public works director Mike Smith.

The hotel property owner has to submit a new permit for grading. Stafford Hospitality LLC has until today to give a response—a timeline and penalty could be set after that point.

Work can continue in the meantime.

The slope has had problems in the past, said Lovell, who has run the campsite with spots for RV’s and tents as well as cabins for about 30 years. About 15 years ago, he installed a new sewer pipe to replace an older one.

Now, that white pipe is sticking out from the edge of the exposed hillside. The neighboring landowners attached a black pipe to run the waste into a square hole, and a sump pump then draws it to Short’s Branch, Lovell said. That’s a seasonal run-off along Lovell’s properties, which borders three sides of the hotel site.

Over the past month, more and more land has fallen away, pulling down the first two caution fences. A third orange safety fence now stands along the ridge, on Lovell’s property rather than the hotel’s. He advises visitors not to get too close though, for a crack started to appear on his side of the land this week.

“You can’t just come on someone else’s property and do what you want,” he said.

“The way I was raised, you stay off other people’s property.”

He’s been told by the owners it’ll be fixed, but he’s not confident.

A plumber visited Wednesday morning to examine the problem and see about plugging the pipe temporarily. Lovell will ask some campers to delay emptying their holding tanks.

This could work for about a week, Lovell anticipates.

Katie Thisdell: 540/735-1975