|The Fairfax County Government Center where the Board of Supervisors meets|
Residents of Ravenwood Park and surrounding communities have been battling this project for years, and several of them spoke against it at the Board of Supervisors hearing immediately before the vote.
Approval of the amendment means the developer can now apply for the property to be rezoned so he can put seven single-family homes on the 1.89-acre property in a neighborhood that is zoned R-3. The Fairfax County Planning Commission approved the amendment in April.
Because the property is in the Mason District and Mason Supervisor Penny Gross supports the amendment, the other supervisors went along with her recommendation to approve it Gross said the amendment addresses “two major themes” supported by local residents: It would put single-family houses on that land rather than townhouses, and it would not connect the separate parts of Peace Valley Lane.
Supervisor John Cook (Braddock) called the proposal an example of the difficulty of infill development. Jeff McKay (Lee) said a plan amendment leads to a better result than a project developed by-right, where there is no community involvement, and Chair Sharon Bulova said community engagement will be a part of the rezoning process.
Only one person spoke in favor of the plan amendment. Pat Hoar, who lives on Colmac Drive directly behind the property, said he supports it because the Planning Commission agreed to limit the number of homes from eight to seven, provides assurances that the unconnected parts of Peace Valley Lane would not be connected, and requires a 35-foot buffer between the existing homes and much larger new houses.
Ravenwood Park Citizens Association (RPCA) Co-President Carol Turner, who’s been fighting against this infill development for seven years, told the BOS the plan amendment contradicts language in the Comprehensive Plan that calls for the preservation of established, stable neighborhoods.
John Iekel, the other RPCA co-president, raised concerns about setting a precedent of spot zoning allowing greater density in the midst of a low-density community. “One could argue that one or two additional dwellings are insignificant in the grand scheme of things,” he said. “But every ocean is made up of individual drops. And each drop of density adds to the ocean of congestion, gridlock, and cement.”
He noted that a majority of RPCA residents oppose the plan amendment, and the Mason District Land Use Committee urged the Planning Commission to reject it.
Steve Tran, speaking on behalf of the Vinewood Townhouse Homeowners Association, urged the BOS to vote against the amendment for two reasons: It is unfair to restrict access to the proposed development to a single route, which is a private road owned by Vinewood and the Church of Christ, and because a high-density development on 1.89 acres is “out of character.”
The church opposes the amendment because the county staff report indicated the developer might need to purchase part of its parking lot to accommodate the turnaround requirements of emergency vehicles, said Steve Dasher.
“We’re opposed to selling part of our lot,” he said. The church’s parking lot is already too small to meet the needs of its members and is also used on Fridays by members of the Dar Al-Hijrah Islamic Center. It’s also likely that the new households would have two or three cars each and they and their visitors would use the church lot for their overflow needs, he said. Also, increased traffic at the Route 7 intersection would likely lead to more accidents.
Kathleen McDermott, a real estate attorney opposes the amendment because it creates a loophole that would encourage more developers to seek PDH (planned development housing) zoning. PDH zoning allows higher density if the residents are part of a homeowners association and are responsible for common areas, like private roads and stormwater management systems.
The only access to the proposed development should not be via a private road, McDermott said. County regulations require housing zoned R-4 to be accessed via public road, so that means the developer is likely to seek PDH zoning, which would be the only option allowing a private road.
Cindy Winter, a resident of Ravenwood Park for 52 years and president of RPCA in 1976, also urged the BOS to reject the plan amendment. She expressed disappointment about the loss of the large old trees and said, “I can’t believe all the time and money that has been spent to dictate what’s on this little piece of property.”
“Why must houses be crammed into every parcel in our district?” said Ravenwood resident Debbie Smith. “Although the proposed amendment will certainly benefit the developer, I fail to see how this increased density will either enhance or benefit the surrounding neighborhoods or the greater Seven Corners community.”