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Thursday, January 21, 2010

Does Route 7 need 425 more condos?

If you’ve ever driven on Leesburg Pike between Seven Corners and the Skyline Center at just about any time of the day, you’ve probably run into some of the worst traffic congestion in Northern Virginia. How can it possibly get any worse?

Unless Fairfax County officials act to stop it, a major new project will be built on the site of the Sears store across the street from the Seven Corners shopping center. Try to imagine the impact on traffic of a multiuse development with 425 condominiums, offices, stores, and a parking garage in several five to eight-story buildings.

That prospect brought about 100 residents to a meeting at JEB Stuart High School Wednesday evening organized by Carol Turner, president of the Ravenwood Park Citizens Association. Leaders and members of the Sleepy Hollow, Sleepy Hollow Manor, Buffalo Hills, Bel Air, Lake Barcroft, Greater Hillwood, and Ravenwood Park signed a petition opposing a change in the county’s comprehensive plan to allow for greater density on that property.

“A higher residential density would be incompatible with the adjoining neighborhoods and the Seven Corners community business center,” the petition states. “It would undermine the high quality of life by adding additional population densities with little or no planning for future revitalization of the entire area. The amount of unlimited traffic and density that 425 condos would bring to the area would be unsupportable in the current infrastructure.” The petition urges the development proposal to be “put on hold” pending a complete study of the entire area.

A nomination to request a change in the comprehensive plan was filed by Elizabeth Baker, an Arlington attorney with the Walsh Colucci Lubeley Emrich & Walsh (“The Land Lawyers) on behalf of Juniper Lane Associates, which represents the property owners. Sears’ lease expires in eight years, but could very well be gone before that.

A Mason District task force will review the proposal at a meeting Jan. 27, 7 p.m., at the Mason District Government Center. Many participants at last night’s meeting expressed frustration that no one knew who was on the task force and that Mason Supervisor Penny Gross did not inform residents about what is going on and is not responsive to their concerns.

At a meeting on Feb. 17, officials from the Fairfax County Department of Planning and Zoning will present a preliminary recommendation on the proposed development. Pamela G. Nee, chief of the planning department’s Environment and Development Review Branch, told the crowd the department could recommend that the nomination be denied, approved, or modified. She said the comprehensive plan should “reflect community values.”

Both of those meetings are open to the public, and many local residents are planning to attend. The proposal then goes to the Planning Commission, which will hold public hearings and make a recommendation to the Board of Supervisors, which has the final say.

County officials will study the proposed impact on transportation, parks, zoning, the environment, and other factors before the Feb. 17 meeting. If it is determined the project will result in more than 5,000 additional “trips” per day, VDOT will carry out a more comprehensive review.

The neighborhood groups are also concerned about a proposal to rezone the property on South Street, parallel to Arlington Boulevard (Route 50) near Seven Corners, now occupied by Meadow Farms nursery. The plan calls for 100 townhouses to built on that property. Currently zoned for two to three units per acre, Albert Riveros requested it be rezoned to accommodate eight to 10 units per acre. He also wants to tear down 15 houses on Arlington Boulevard, South Street, and Aspen Lane.

One resident’s comment at last night’s meeting that “you can’t trust the county and you can’t trust the developers” seemed to sum up the mood of the crowd. Fairfax County officials don’t listen to neighborhood concerns, someone else said, because “they are only interested in the tax money.” And if the tax revenue from a high-density project “isn’t going to help our community, we should not go forward,” another resident added. Many felt “railroaded” by what they feel is a rushed review process and insufficient time for community input.


  1. Thank you for your article, which captures well some of the feelings expressed about the "Sears site" area plan review that has been scheduled as part of the county's 5-year cycle of such reviews.
    For fairness's sake this reader, in attendance last night, wishes to add that Supervisor Gross was not notified about this meeting, as the intent was to have a community-only discussion. Where the discussion turned to criticism or matters where she could have offered clarification of the process, she or her representative were not there to respond.

    There is a general overview of the Area Plan Review Task force in Supervisor Gross's Fall 2009 newsletter, at:

    thank you again for your community service in publishing this blog for us,

    Marie Reinsdorf
    member, Mason District APR task force

  2. Thanks for the clarification, Marie.

  3. Thank you Ellie. I wasn't able to make the meeting but am glad to hear some of what occurred. I will share it with Lake Barcroft community.