|The Cornejo property viewed from across Backlick Road|
The Fairfax County Federation of Citizens Associations approved a resolution Dec. 15 urging the Board of Supervisors to deny requests for re-zoning from R to P-type zoning for infill projects. This is the situation going on with the Cornejo property in Annandale, which is opposed by Wilburdale and other nearby communities.
R-type zoning involves residential housing. Zoning for single-family detached housing ranges from R-1 (one unit per acre) to R-8. P-type zoning includes the PDH (planned development housing) category, which allows higher density and requires the homeowners in a development to contribute to the maintenance of open space on the property.
According to the Fairfax Federation, higher density “can denigrate the character and ambiance of an existing neighborhood,” and allowing properties to be rezoned under the PDH category “does not sufficiently protect the stability of existing neighborhoods.”
The group has been concerned about this issue since 2007, when the county allowed restrictions on the width of residential lots to be waived as “special exceptions,” states a Dec. 16 letter to the supervisors from Fairfax Federation President Tania Hossain and the group’s Land Use Committee chair Frederick Costello.
The federation warned of a proliferation of “pipe-stem subdivisions,” with houses behind other houses and with narrow access to the street.
The most recent lot width waiver request, in March 2010, involved a proposed pipe-stem development on land owned by Ana Cornejo at 4954 Sunset Lane.
Neighbors took the issue to court, and Circuit Court Judge Leslie Alden ruled last April that the county exceeded its authority and violated Dillon’s Rule by granting lot-width waivers without meeting the requirements for granting a zoning variance. The Cornejo special exception was ruled invalid.
Cornejo is now trying to get around that ruling by requesting the property be rezoned from R to PDH, which has no minimum lot width requirement. She wants to tear down one of the two houses she owns on the 2.17-acre property and built three more. She also wants to add a private driveway accessible from Backlick Road.
If the county approves Cornejo’s rezoning request, the federation is concerned it will set a precedent for more pipe-stem, infill developments with increased density, which would “permanently impair the character and quality of existing neighborhoods.”
The resolution passed by the Fairfax Federation calls for the rezoning requests from R to P-type zoning, including PDH, “be denied for all infill projects, if not approved by the majority of neighbors, unless: (1) the property can be otherwise developed to the same number of dwelling units ‘by right’ under the current zoning; (2) the rezoning to P-type zoning would not cause an increase in the yield of allowable dwelling units on the subject property; and (3) the resulting lot widths would be no less than 75 percent of the minimum lot width requirement of the zoning.”