Ravenwood Park and surrounding areas gathered at JEB Stuart High School last night to solidify their opposition to the development of townhouses on a small piece of vacant property at 3236 Peace Valley Road, Falls Church. [See map at end of post.]
Just about everybody there signed a petition opposing the proposed townhouses and vowed to accelerate their campaign to urge Mason Supervisor Penny Gross to support their cause. The residents are urging community members to send e-mails to Gross, other supervisors, and other elected leaders and will continue to press their case at a meeting they have scheduled with Board of Supervisors Chair Sharon Bulova. Residents from the nearby Vinewood townhouses and Lafayette Park condominium also signed the petition.
Carol Turner, the co-president of the Ravenwood Park Civic Association, who led the meeting, says a higher-density development would mar the character of the neighborhood and would lead to more traffic and crime. The community members recognize that the property will be developed, but would prefer single-family houses rather than townhouses.
A derelict 1890s-era farmhouse on the 1.89-acre property, which had been occupied by homeless people, was declared blighted by the county and torn down in December.
The developer, Will Collins of the Concordia Group, has asked the county to change the zoning from R-3 (three dwellings per acre) to R-12, to accommodate his plan to construct 12 townhouses. Community residents are concerned that Gross has agreed to expedite the rezoning process.
Gross outlined her position on the matter in her “A Penny for Your Thoughts” column in the Falls Church News-Press. She says the property “represents an opportunity, as well as a challenge, for compatible infill residential development.” If the zoning is not changed, neither the county nor the community would have as much control over the development, Gross maintains.
“In a conventional by-right subdivision, a develop submits a site plan and, after technical review, can get a building permit from the county,” she states. “No development conditions may be placed on the property, no opportunity for proffers, and the community has no input into the layout, design, siding (e.g. brick vs. vinyl), buffer, and landscape, etc. The developer could clear-cut the property, and back up the new homes as close as 25 feet to the neighbors’ property line.”
Several people at the meeting announced they would accept those conditions as long as they can keep townhouses out of their neighborhood.
The issue is further complicated by the murky real estate situation, Turner says. “We don’t know who owns the property,” although there are indications the owner might be the Rialto, a company based in Florida that buys distressed properties and flips them.
According to Turner, in a meeting with the supervisor, Gross also raised the possibility of opening access to the property from Peace Valley Lane, which is now blocked, if the property is not rezoned. Turner called that a “red herring.”
Some residents appeared puzzled about why Gross seems to be intent on moving ahead with development. Ravenwood Park resident Brad Moss thinks Gross believes no one else would build on that lot, “so we better grab this now.” Tate Linden, who lives on Colmac Drive, directly behind the property, says when Gross was asked if she would oppose the rezoning if 100 percent of our community said they don’t want the townhouses, “she said she’d have to think about it.”
Jonathan Marashlian, who also lives on Colmac, says. “You can’t trust anything Will Collins says. I’m beginning to think the same thing about Penny.” And Jorge O. Badie, who lives on Ravenwood Drive, adds: Gross doesn’t understand that “we do not want townhouses in our backyard. She must think that we are not accounted for on issues that concern us. She forgot that she is supposed to work for us and not against us.”
All this could have an impact on Gross’ re-election campaign. In fact, one community leader from a different neighborhood in Annandale who attended the meeting in support of the residents, acknowledged she is considering running against Gross next November.
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