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Pimmit Hills residents stage benefit concert to help fund legal fight over Washington Gas pipeline

Pimmit Hills residents recently held a pizza party to raise funds to cover legal fees from Washington Gas’ lawsuit over a planned gas pipeline (photo by Marni Penning)

The Pimmit Hills neighborhood has officially reached the “let’s put on a show” stage of its battle against a planned Washington Gas pipeline.

Faced with escalating legal fees, residents have banded together to stage a “Protect Pimmit Hills Hoedown” benefit concert from 5-7 p.m. on Saturday (June 3) as a fundraiser for four of their neighbors who were sued by the utility company.

The concert will be held at Pimmit Barn (1845 Cherri Drive) with “limited” food available for sale from the food truck, The Big Cheese. Providing the music will be the Pimmit Hillbillies, a band that neighborhood residents formed for this occasion.

“We hope this concert helps reinforce our community spirit by getting neighbors out and meeting each other to join fight this project that affects us all,” resident guitarist Tom Gillespie said. “We will bond over great tunes, grilled cheese sandwiches, and chocolate chip cookies while we talk about our ongoing pipeline battle.”

Filed by Washington Gas on March 3, 2022, the lawsuit challenges a Fairfax County Board of Zoning Appeals ruling that a special exception permit and 2232 review are required for the natural gas pipeline, the last phase of the Strip 1 Tysons project to upgrade about five miles of pipe from Tyco Road to Pimmit Drive.

A bench trial in Fairfax County Circuit Court had been scheduled for April 25 and 26, but the judge postponed it to the first week of September after the Virginia Supreme Court voided the zoning ordinance that guided the BZA’s decision, according to Christina Chen Zinner, one of the Pimmit Hills residents involved in the case.

Though the ordinance known as zMOD was readopted on May 9, it remains unclear how the Supreme Court’s ruling affected zoning decisions made during the two years when the code was initially in effect.

Because of the trial delay, Zinner and her fellow defendants shared earlier this month that they need to raise an additional $20,000 to cover their legal costs, which have climbed to $45,000. With the help of a recent neighborhood pizza party, they’ve made progress on that goal, raising $38,700 through Gofundme.

The Pimmit Hillbillies hope to finish the job. The band emerged from a virtual meeting, where residents brainstormed fundraising ideas.

“Knowing that I like to sing and play guitar, and compose my own songs, [my wife Stephanie] challenged me during the meeting to compose a protest song to help us promote our Gofundme drive,” Gillespie recalled. “I feel so passionate about fighting this pipeline that the lyrics and notes just flowed out of me.”

Gillespie presented a demo of the song — “That Pipe Don’t Belong Here!” — and soon, other residents volunteered their own musical abilities, from additional singers and another guitarist to Zinner on the violin.

The band also has an electric bassist, a drummer, a saxophonist, and a singer who plays the banjolele, a cross between a banjo and ukelele.

In addition to “That Pipe Don’t Belong Here!,” songs planned for Saturday’s hoedown include covers of protest tunes like Woody Guthrie’s “This Land Is My Land” and retro classics, such as the Beatles’ “All You Need Is Love” and Tom Petty’s “Refugee.”

The concert is open to all community members, with Del. Marcus Simon (D-53) among the supporters expected to attend. Former Pimmit Hills resident Greg Garcia — creator of the TV shows “My Name Is Earl” and “Raising Hope” — has also backed the fight against the 24-inch-wide pipeline, which residents argue will be too big and high pressure for a residential neighborhood.

According to Gillespie, Garcia recently shared “encouraging words” with the current residents of Pimmit Hills, which inspired the fictional Pimmit Hills Trailer Park in “My Name Is Earl”:

Once a Pimmit Hillian, always a Pimmit Hillian, and as a proud alumni of your neighborhood I applaud your efforts to keep the neighborhood safe for you and your children. Stay strong and continue to fight the power. Or fight as long as you can, and then have a block party barbeque but use charcoal instead of natural gas. That’ll show ’em! Good luck!

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