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Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Residents object to proposed funeral chapel on Braddock Road

A rendering of the proposed funeral chapel.
Residents of Hillbrook-Tall Oaks and nearby Annandale neighborhoods urged the Mason District Land Use Committee Oct. 28 to oppose plans for a funeral chapel on Braddock Road near the Backlick Road intersection.

Their concerns primarily have to do with traffic on Braddock Road, spillover parking on neighborhood streets, pedestrian safety, and issues around the size of the proposed building and how it would be used.

The MDLUC agreed to defer a decision on the proposal, and Janet Hall, the Mason representative on the Fairfax County Planning Commission, indicated she would put forth a motion at the Planning Commission hearing Oct. 30 to delay a decision on the application for a zoning special exception from the Afghan Academy. 

Hall said that would provide more time for both sides to get together and discuss the community’s concerns. 

Keith Martin, the attorney representing the Afghan community, said he tried to schedule a meeting with local residents but “the community refused to meet with us.” Several residents at the meeting said they hadn’t been notified.

The proposed funeral chapel would be built on a one-acre lot, currently zoned R-2 and occupied by a single-family home. It’s next to the Immanuel Bible Church and across the street from the Bradlick Shopping Center and the Mustafa Center.

Joe Gorney of the county zoning evaluation division, said the proposal meets county requirements. The staff report recommends approval, with the addition of several development conditions relating to barriers, setbacks, and other issues.

Martin said the applicant agreed to reduce the hours of operation for the funeral chapel – it would close by 11:30 a.m. on Fridays – to minimize traffic during the busiest time for the mosque. On other days, hours would be restricted to 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Kathleen McDermott said the distinction between funeral home and chapel isn’t clear in the county ordinance and recommended the proposal be amended to state that the washing and shrouding of bodies and other preparation of the dead for burial would be prohibited. If those activities take place, then the facility is actually a funeral home, and would only be allowed on land zoned for commercial development, she said.

The facility will be a funeral chapel, not a funeral house, Martin emphasized. A funeral home allows more services, including autopsies, embalming, and cremation. “We’re not doing that,” Martin said. This facility would be used for washing and shrouding the body, and only immediate family – and usually only people of the same sex as the body – would be present.

MDLUC Chair Daniel Aminoff agreed with McDermott’s suggestion that a county attorney should review the application and determine whether the proposed facility meets the criteria for a funeral chapel.

McDermott also questioned why the building has to be so large (over 7,000 square feet) if it’s only for small gatherings. Hillbrook-Tall Oaks resident Helen Winter raised concerns that there might be other activities at the facility, such as classes or meetings, that would create more traffic. Aminoff said that wouldn’t be allowed.

While the facility would have 104 seats and a maximum capacity of 90 people, only about 20 or 30 people would generally be present at a time, said Mohamed Bashir, president of the Mustafa Center, which is also associated with the Afghan Academy.

Winter and other residents argued that people going to the Mustafa Center are already filling up the Bradlick Shopping Center parking lot, contributing to the traffic on Braddock Road, and parking in their neighborhood. Parking for the mosque is “encroaching on the residential area,” she said.

Several residents said the location of the funeral chapel across the street from the mosque means more people would be walking across Braddock Road, which would be unsafe.

“This is a zoning disaster,” said Mark Crawford, who also lives in Hillbrook-Tall Oaks. “The biggest issue is public safety. It’s absolute chaos at the [Braddock/Backlick] intersection on weekends.”

“Parking and traffic are legitimate concerns,” Aminoff said. But the issue before the MDLUC is only about the development at 6839 Braddock Road and access in and out of the property. He suggested residents bring their complaints about traffic to Mason Supervisor Penny Gross.

Gross’ aide Aaron Frank noted that the Fairfax County Department of Transportation reviewed the proposal and didn’t have any objections.

A rendering of the proposed shopping center on Leesburg Pike.
Among other matters, the MDLUC endorsed a proposal by the Seven Corners Home Depot to expand into the retail space next door that used to be a Room Store and is currently occupied by a temporary Spirit of Halloween store.

Home Depot had been cited for a zoning violation for storing merchandise in the parking lot. The Planning Commission has scheduled a public hearing on the proposed expansion Nov. 5.

Representatives from Spectrum Development described their rezoning proposal for the “Shops at Bailey’s Crossroads” on Leesburg Pike between Washington Drive and Charles Street. The Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors already approved a plan amendment for the project.

Part of the property needs to be changed from residential to commercial zoning, and the company is seeking a zoning special exception to allow a drive-through pharmacy at the proposed CVS.

William Lawson of Spectrum told the MDLUC the fence shielding the back of the property from single-family homes in the Courtland Park neighborhood would be moved to the property line, and the plaza area between the shopping center buildings would be expanded. He said the company would consider proffers addressing deliveries, construction hours, screening for the trash cans, a bicycle rack, and dedicated land to align Charles Street with Glen Forest Drive.

Washington Drive resident Irene Xenos expressed concerns about declining property values and safety issues for her 92-year-old grandmother who lives across the street from the entrance to the shopping center. Wayne Vallis, another neighbor, said the shopping center seems to be too big for the space.

Finally, at about 9:45 p.m., Brent Krasner of the Fairfax County Department of Planning and Zoning and Avalon Bay representative Mark Looney of Cooley LLP gave a presentation on the Southeast Quadrant project.

This project, along Columbia Pike between Radley Acura and Moncure Avenue, would include a five-story apartment building with at least 250 units to be developed by Avalon Bay and an urban-style elementary school to be built, possibly years later, by Fairfax County Public Schools. 

The Planning Commission will hold a public hearing on a proposed plan amendment for this project Nov. 5 and the Board of Supervisors is scheduled to take it up Dec. 2. The rezoning proposal would probably go before the BoS next spring or summer.

Reaction from the public at the MDLUC meeting was mixed. Mollie Loeffler, chair of the Mason District Council of Community Associations, said the community needs a new school and the proposed redevelopment is an improvement over what’s on that site now.

Clyde Miller said it would be better to put the new school on the Willston Center site in Seven Corners and put the East County Government Center at the Southeast Quadrant. That had been the plan a couple of years ago: Fairfax County wanted to put the East County building on Moncure Avenue but that project is now under consideration for the Willston area in Seven Corners.


  1. Re the Funeral Parlor:
    Have we finally come across a Developer who is not developing "By RIgnt" in Pennyland?
    Is there such a thing? What's the issue, has he not (ahem) "proffered" enough?

    Why should the supervisor be distracted by community feedback?

  2. About the funeral chapel, has anyone looked into how many funeral homes are nearby that would offer the same services without building a new business. I see no mention as to existing facilities that offer funeral services.

    1. Demaine funeral home is right around the corner where Edsall road meets Backlick.

  3. This facility is not a Funeral Home, rather a Funeral Chapel where specific services will be performed according to traditions and customs for the Afghan community.

  4. I was at the Bradlick Shopping Center yesterday at 3pm and once again parking was a bear because those attending the mosque were parking in the shopping center. We can not sustain more parking issues at Bradlick shopping center. No one will want to shop there is they can not park there.