|Washington Drive, looking toward Leesburg Pike. The shopping center would be at the left. [Google Maps]|
The Fairfax County Department of Transportation hasn’t developed a detailed plan on realigning those two roads as they cross Leesburg Pike, said Janet Hall, the planning commissioner representing the Mason District, during a public hearing July 17. The road realignment is driving the entire plan amendment language and rezoning request for the proposed retail center between Charles Street and Washington Drive, Murphy said. “I’m not clear how this would work. . . . Clearly we are not ready to move forward on this.”
Several residents of the Courtland Park neighborhood spoke at the hearing, primarily about their concerns with traffic and the need for a more extensive buffer between the shopping center and their homes. Hall urged local residents to bring their issues to a meeting of the Mason District Land Use Committee July 22, 7:30 p.m., at the Mason Government Center.
Courtland Park doesn’t have an active community association, but Wayne Valis, a resident of Washington Drive spearheaded an effort to draft a letter to Mason Supervisor Penny Gross outlining residents’ concerns and got 37 people to sign it. In response, Gross invited residents to meet with her on July 22 at 6 p.m. immediately before the MDLUC meeting. [That’s a change from July 21.]
At the hearing, Gwen Doddy Lowit, a resident of Washington Drive, urged the commissioners to not allow restaurants or a drive-through at the proposed shopping center. Spectrum Development has already signed up Smashburger, Potbelly Sandwich Shop, and a CVS with a drive-through pharmacy.
Restaurants will lead to more litter, noise, smells, and cut-through traffic, said Lowit, who notes that an earlier county planning document “strongly discouraged” restaurants on that site. The planning staff now believes restaurants should be permitted, because the developer has since acquired additional properties, allowing for a larger buffer zone.
Lowit also complained that it’s already impossible to make a left turn from Washington to Leesburg Pike, and that more people would cut through the neighborhood to get to Columbia Pike.
“If the proposed project is supposed to be pedestrian friendly, why have a drive-through?” Lowit asked.
A representative for Spectrum, William Lawson Jr., said the CVS drive-through would only be for prescriptions and would only be used about seven times an hour, which is a lot less than fast food or bank drive-throughs. Murphy said if people are sick, it’s better that they pick up prescriptions in their car rather than walk through the store.
Commissioner Janyce Hedetniemi (at large) said the proposal doesn’t adequately support pedestrians and bicyclists. “This is not well thought out and seems kind of haphazard,” she said. “We need to be more creative to get people out of cars.”
Nicholas Ferk, whose house on 3427 Charles Street would be next-door to the new development, urged the commissioners to extend the buffer zone. He said the wall proposed by the developers at the rear of the site would be just one foot away from his house and that someone could climb the wall and break into his bedroom window. Lawson said if the community prefers, the wall could be moved closer to the shopping center.
Irene Xenos, whose grandmother’s house on Washington Drive would be close to the shopping center entrance, expressed concerns about more traffic, more illegal parking on the street, and property values. These are valid concerns, Murphy said, but “these are public roads; people can use them.”