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Lieutenant General Frank Camm had ...
Lieutenant General Frank Camm had already enjoyed a distinguished career in the United States Army when he was appointed Chairman of a group that would develop an Army Officer Retirement Residence. In Part I, he relies heavily on the minutes of some 200 Foundation meetings to share the trials and errors, disappointments, and successes endemic to such an enterprise. In Part II, Colonel John Schlight, a retired Air Force navigator and former Air Force Academy history professor, details how The Fairfax grew into maturity and how its residents learned to govern themselves and transform The Fairfax into a fun-filled community.
History of The Fairfax shares a captivating behind-the-scenes glimpse into how one idea created a community with traditions and an atmosphere ideal for military retirees.
With over 500 residents, The Fairfax is now a thriving community that offers retired military officers and their spouses gracious living arrangements and health care on site. In 1982, it was just an idea in the minds of a small band of men and women who saw the need for such a community. This first section tells the story of how The Fairfax came into being-how it was conceived, built, and filled with residents-over the period from 1982 to 1992. Chapter 1 summarizes that entire story.
In 1962, the non-profit Army Distaff Foundation (ADF) opened a 276-unit retirement home in Washington, D.C., now known as Knollwood, for elderly widows and other female relatives of Army officers. By 1981, the foundation's membership was burgeoning. In response, ADF president Lt. Gen. Dave Ott hired Van Scoyoc Associates to analyze the market for retirement facilities for Army officers and their families near Washington, D.C., and San Antonio, Texas. After surveying the desires of thousands of Army officer families, Van Scoyoc Associates reported in March 1982 that the surveys "demonstrated a demand among retired Army officers, their wives and widows ... for a retirement housing program in each of the targeted locations." Because a moratorium was then in place on building new nursing beds in northern Virginia, Van Scoyoc recommended building the first new facility in San Antonio. Comparing the stated desires of survey respondents with the characteristics of 15 existing retirement facilities in the Washington area, Van Scoyoc recommended that, when the opportunity opened for a new Virginia facility, its first phase should consist of 240 residential units in several three- to five-story buildings, 40 personal care beds, 40 nursing care beds, and a central services building linked together on the retirement campus. A second phase of 80 residential units and 80 nursing beds could be added. Chapter 2 describes ADF's early efforts, the Van Scoyoc Report, and its initial implications for what has since become The Fairfax.
In September 1982, ADF distributed the Van Scoyoc Report at an orientation luncheon at Fort Myer, Virginia, for approximately 40 retired officers and wives. ADF then hosted a November 1982 meeting where Van Scoyoc described land acquisition, financing, and marketing concerns. Ten days later, 15 men and women met to form an organization that would develop an Army Officer Retirement Residence in northern Virginia. Most agreed to serve on the board of this organization and they elected Lt. Gen. Frank Camm as chairman and Lt. Gen. Dave Ott as vice chairman. Meeting weekly, they gained the pro-bono legal services of John Hagner, drafted bylaws, and became incorporated as The Army Retirement Residence Foundation-Potomac (ARRF-P) in Virginia on August 4, 1983, with the following 12 initial board members: Lt. Gen. Frank Camm, chairman; Col. Bob Cowherd, secretary; Lt. Gen. Dave Ott, vice chairman; Jeanne Moody, treasurer; Maj. Gen. Darrie Richards, finance; Anne Brinkerhoff, real estate; Gloria Hamilton, operations; Col. Joe Bellino; Maj. Gen. Dan Raymond, construction; Col. Bill Hamilton; Lt. Col. Bob Loe, marketing; Lt. Col. Forrest Pauli. Chapter Three describes how ADF's initial efforts led to the formation of ARRF-P.
The next year brought a high level of activity on many fronts. During this period, the ARRF-P board decided what kind of facilities to develop; picked an architect-engineer to design these; began to raise funds and build support from the Army, retired military, and local leaders; found a desirable building site; and initiated a partnership with the Marriott Corporation that would shape the whole effort from that point forward. After careful study of the Van Scoyoc Report, numerous visits to retirement communities, and many offers to develop their retirement community, Gloria Hamilton's Operations Committee produced an initial statement of operational needs and compiled architectural guidelines. Dan Raymond's Construction Committee selected VVKR as architect-engineer. While the foundation leaders gained the support of the Army and retired military, Bob Loe got the support of Fairfax County leaders. Meanwhile, ADF helped form an Army Retirement Residence Association that solicited necessary startup funds for the San Antonio and Virginia projects, and Darrie Richard's Finance Committee garnered favorable financial offers. After Ann Brinkerhoff's Real Estate Committee considered numerous possible sites, ARRF-P decided to take advantage of Fairfax County's support for its purchase of 107 surplus acres of federal property on the western edge of Fort Belvoir, where The Fairfax stands today. And in June 1984, the Marriott Corporation signed an agreement to develop and operate ARRF-P's first retirement residence as Marriott's prototype retirement community. Bill Eggbeer led Marriott's side of this partnership for the next five years. Chapter 4 describes these activities during 1983 and 1984.
Acquiring the Belvoir site where The Fairfax stands today turned out to be much harder than anyone could have anticipated. In March 1984, the ARRF-P Board proposed to buy the Belvoir site in a "pass through" sale, via Fairfax County, from the General Services Administration (GSA). Almost immediate endorsement by the Fairfax County of Supervisors raised the board's hopes, but challenges quickly followed. GSA's appraised value for the property exceeded the independent appraisal that the board commissioned by a third. The foundation had to hire an acoustic engineer to overcome allegations that noise from nearby demolition and rifle ranges on Fort Belvoir and aircraft on Davison Army Airfield exceeded those suitable for residential housing. After GSA finally agreed to the pass through sale, the responsible congressional oversight committee queried the foundation for months before finally ruling against it. At the time, the foundation board was mystified by this outcome. In hindsight, it now appears that partisan politics drove it. The practical result was that, in March 1986, GSA sold the Belvoir site at public auction to Cook Inlet Region, Inc. (CIRI), an Alaskan Indian firm. CIRI won the auction using what in essence were credits that the federal government had given to CIRI in exchange for federal use of Indian lands in Alaska. With these credits, CIRI could acquire land in federal auctions and sell it, generating cash. Who would ever have imagined that federal land policies in Alaska would so decisively affect the foundation's efforts to acquire land in tidewater Virginia? Chapter 5 describes the efforts over two years to acquire the Belvoir site.
All was not lost. CIRI bought the land fully intending to sell it to generate cash; who better to sell it to than the organizations that had bid against it in the auction? Marriott and the foundation negotiated with CIRI to carve a suitable building site from the land that CIRI had just acquired. This took some doing. A sixth of the land lay in the Pohick Church Historic District and so could not be developed. Fairfax County expected proffers to the county for widening US Route 1 and Telegraph Road. Marriott, the foundation, and CIRI carved the remaining land into four pieces-a 9.5-acre lake area and three pieces of roughly equal size-Parcels I, II, and III. Marriott bought Parcels I (28.5 acres) and II (23 acres) and access to Telegraph Road for six million dollars. CIRI retained Parcel III (28.5 acres) and the lake site. Marriott agreed to build and maintain the lake; CIRI agreed to reimburse Marriott on an ongoing basis for its share of the lake's construction and maintenance. Marriott agreed to apply for R-5 zoning for Parcel I with a special exception for elderly housing. The foundation agreed to support CIRI's use of the lake and open lands to gain higher density in its application for C-2 zoning of Parcel III. Chapter 6 describes the details of how the foundation and Marriott worked with CIRI to acquire the land where The Fairfax stands today.
In helping form ARRF-P and raising startup funds, the Army Distaff Foundation and the Army Retirement Residence Association retained no authority over ARRF-P. The foundation began to share its governance with Marriott when they composed agreements together on their respective duties and obligations in developing The Fairfax. Chief among these was the Sponsorship Agreement that authorized Marriott to build, own, and operate The Fairfax and gave ARRF-P members exclusive access to The Fairfax as long as they could keep it full, but allowed Marriott to fill from the general public units remaining vacant for 60 days. Agreeing not to increase monthly fees more than rises in operating costs, Marriott permitted the foundation to have full, but confidential, access to its operating cost records. The foundation could also accept gifts and administer a benevolent fund for the residents, and it would meet with Marriott annually to discuss mutual concerns. And if Marriott were ever to consider selling The Fairfax community separately, it would give the foundation a 30-day right of first negotiation to buy The Fairfax. Marriott and ARRF-P also composed the Continuing Care Agreement between residents and Marriott about fees, amenities, and services at The Fairfax. The Resident Council was to govern The Fairfax Residents Association, representing residents as a group and formulating rules governing resident activities. Though the Resident Council had no authority beyond activities at The Fairfax, the council later presumed to have veto rights over future foundation plans to build next door to The Fairfax, as described later. Top foundation and Marriott Senior Living Service leaders consulted frequently throughout the endeavor. Chapter 7 addresses these governance matters.
Meanwhile, efforts were under way to design, market, and build a community for the Belvoir site. When Marriott agreed to partner with the foundation, it chose its own architect-engineer, CHK Architects of Silver Spring, to design the facility. Working closely with CHK, the foundation board carefully reviewed its earlier lists of what to build. After considering many options, the board agreed unanimously to name the new community The Fairfax in recognition of Lord Fairfax, whose Belvoir mansion lay just three miles from the new community. That made it easy to derive the foundation's logo from the coat of arms of Lord Fairfax. The board also decided to name the residence buildings at The Fairfax for the first American presidents. Marriott hired Nancy George in April 1985 to market The Fairfax. The problems in acquiring a building site described above delayed opening a marketing office with a full-size model living unit in Alexandria until October 1986. As understanding of who would come to The Fairfax firmed, the board developed eligibility standards to match demand to the planned size of the community. With this in mind, the board expanded eligibility to include retired officers and spouses from the other armed services, including the Coast Guard. In December 1986, Marriott began to take reservations for immediate entry to The Fairfax. By March 1987, 227 families had applied for immediate entry-well over the 50% needed to break ground. Construction of these buildings began in November 1987, but building was so slow that Marriott fired the construction contractor half way through and completed The Fairfax with its own construction force. Despite such problems, progress led to grand opening week celebrations in July 1989. Chapter 8 traces the design and construction of The Fairfax from Marriott's entry in 1984 to the opening of the facility in 1989.
As the design and construction of the physical facility continued, efforts to prepare for the arrival of residents also proceeded. Will Brucker, a West Pointer and nephew of a former Secretary of the Army, arrived as general manager in August 1988 and had his full staff in place for the July 1989 opening. When The Fairfax opened, families had reserved over three-quarters of its living units. Col. Cowherd and Col. Guyette became the first residents on 2 August 1989. After that, residents arrived steadily, filling 23% of planned capacity by January 1990, 64% by January 1991, 85% by January 1992, and 97% by January 1993. Chapter 9 describes staffing, filling and starting life in The Fairfax.
ARRF-P was not the only group seeking to build a retirement home for retired military officers in the Washington, D.C., area. In 1987, the Air Force Retired Officer Community (AFROC) asked Marriott to build a military retirement community for them in Maryland. Marriott declined when surveys indicated that fewer than 200 AFROC members expected to move in within three years. Subsequent discussions between board members of AFROC and ARRF-P revealed that they were remarkably similar in purpose, size, management, and history. In January 1990, leaders of the two foundations tentatively agreed that a merger between them would allow both to benefit from pursuing similar goals together. The Fairfax Resident Council strongly disagreed, fearing such a merger would lead Marriott to take on new responsibilities to build facilities next to The Fairfax before Marriott had resolved the start-up problems that residents were still experiencing. And they feared that, if Marriott built new facilities right next door, the residents of The Fairfax would lose the beautiful woods just south of them that they had come to take for granted. These arguments successfully rallied many residents against a merger. Virginia code required that, for two foundations to merge, at least two-thirds of the members of each foundation had to approve the merger. The members of AFROC voted overwhelmingly for the merger in May 1991, but so many residents of The Fairfax voted against the merger that the ARRF-P vote fell just short of the two-thirds required for approval. Although the ARRF-P board felt it could likely prevail in a revote at the upcoming annual meeting in September, it decided against continuing to fight for a merger to avoid creating a sense of lasting bitterness among neighbors at The Fairfax. Promptly dropping the matter, the board began doing everything possible to heal the issue and pursue the peace and quiet that the elderly seek in retirement communities. Chapter 10 describes the rise and fall of this potential opportunity for broader partnership between the Army and Air Force retired communities.
From the very beginning of ARRF-P in 1983, its board members had agreed to serve through the opening of its first residence. So, when The Fairfax opened in 1989, the board members realized it was time for them to begin bringing in replacements with fresh ideas. With a substantial and active membership now in place, it was also time for the foundation members to elect new board members. Accordingly, the board decided that, starting with the annual meeting in 1990, a third of the founding directors should depart at each successive annual meeting and be replaced by elected directors. At the September 1992 meeting of the board, the last founding director, Lt. Gen. Frank Camm, presented his final report on the State of the Foundation Board and welcomed Lt. Gen. Willard Scott to assume leadership of a well-experienced board ready to meet future challenges. In the foundation's ninth annual meeting on October 11, 1992, Lt. Gen. Camm passed his gavel to Lt. Gen. Scott to symbolize the end of his tenure in leading the foundation since its founding ten years before. Chapter 11 describes this changing of the guard.
Excerpted from History of The Fairfax by Frank Camm John Schlight Copyright © 2010 by Frank Camm and John Schlight. Excerpted by permission.
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