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Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Mason land use committee rejects Route 7 shopping center



An illustration of the shopping center proposed for Bailey's Crossroads.
The Mason District Land Use Committee Nov. 25 decided not to endorse a shopping center proposed for Route 7 in Bailey’s Crossroads but did agree to support a plan for an Afghan funeral chapel on Braddock Road if certain conditions are met.

The committee also heard a presentation on a housing development for Columbia Pike and Carlin Springs Road, and the group bid farewell to Janet Hall, who is retiring after serving as the Mason District representative on the Fairfax County Planning Commission for 20 years. Hall plans to focus on her other activity – teaching skiing at Liberty Mountain Resort to people with disabilities, including the blind. Mason Supervisor Penny Gross plans to announce a successor next week.

Members of the MDLUC took residents’ concerns into account when voted to urge the Planning Commission to reject a rezoning application for the shopping center along Leesburg Pike between Washington Drive and Charles Street. The Board of Supervisors approved an amendment to the county’s Comprehensive Plan Sept. 29 allowing the project to go forward.

The shopping center is critical for setting the tone of future redevelopment in Bailey’s Crossroads, Hall said. “I want it to be beautiful, and this isn’t.” The rezoning application is scheduled to go before the Planning Commission on Jan. 14 and the Board of Supervisors on Jan. 27.

Barnes Lawson, the attorney representing Spectrum Development, listed the proffers agreed to at a recent meeting with Gross. They include pavers along Washington Drive; more screening in the parking lot, no neon, blinking or flashing signs; restricted hours for deliveries and trash removal; no outdoor venders; and $3,000 for landscaping on the front yard of Concetta Di Falco’s house on Washington Drive, which is directly across from the proposed entryway to the shopping center.

That doesn’t go far enough, said Di Falco’s granddaughter, Irene Xenos, who also lives on that street. She wants Spectrum to eliminate the smallest of three proposed buildings so the driveway can be moved. “It’s a safety issue,” she said. “We want substantial concessions to go with the will of the community.”

Some 41 Courtland Park residents who live near the site have signed a petition opposing the project, and several of them came to the MDLUC meeting. Among their complaints: Traffic is already backed up on Washington Drive and the shopping center will make it worse, the buffer between houses and the shopping center parking lot isn’t deep enough, and a proposed CVS with a drive-through pharmacy will lead to increased traffic congestion.

Hall said had urged CVS to move the entrance to the drive-through for its pharmacy to the street (it’s now planned for the parking lot), and CVS refused, saying it doesn’t allow that kind of building design. Hall later learned that CVS does have an urban-style building that would be better suited to that site and vowed to write to the company and “express my outrage.”

The MDLUC voted to recommend that the Planning Commission approve an Afghan funeral chapel proposed for Braddock Road near the Backlick Road intersection if a county attorney agrees that the facility meets county and state legal requirements and if the development conditions agreed to by neighborhood residents and the Afghan Academy are incorporated into the proposal.

The Planning Commission had held a hearing on the proposal Dec. 3 but deferred a decision pending an opinion from the county attorney. At that hearing, Craig Blakeley argued the  proposal conflicts with state law, which requires funeral chapels to have embalming facilities. The proposed chapel would not have embalming facilities as the Muslim faith bans embalming.

Local residents had concerns about traffic, parking, and pedestrians crossing Braddock Road and creating safety concerns, and the possibility that the building could be used for other purposes by members of the Mustafa Center across the street, as well as funeral services.

Spence Limbock, a representative of the Hillbrook-Tall Oaks Civic Association, said local residents and members of the Mustafa Center met three times to iron out their differences. The Afghan Academy is the parent organization for both the Mustafa Center and the proposed funeral chapel.

As a result of those negotiations, members of the Mustafa Center agreed to prohibit parking at the chapel when the building is closed, restrict the number of individuals in the chapel, and not use the building before or after the stated hours of operation.

Limbock said the mosque leadership also agreed to discourage mosque patrons from parking on residential streets and the nearby park, hire people to direct traffic during busy times, and ensure that drivers can only enter the chapel lot by making a right turn from Braddock and can only exit by turning right.

Kathleen McDermott, an attorney who lives near the chapel site questioned why the building would be twice as big as the mosque and suggested that because the mosque tends to overcrowded at busy times the mosque might shift some activities to the chapel building.

Sohaila Shekib, the engineer working on the facility for the Afghan Center, said that won’t happen because it wouldn’t be appropriate to hold meetings or other events at a funeral chapel. MDLUC member Steve Smith noted that if the mosque is overcrowded, that is a zoning violation and would have to be dealt with by the Department of Code Compliance, not the MDLUC.

The MDLUC didn’t take a position on the proposal to replace a vacant office building at 5600 Columbia Pike in Bailey’s Crossroads with an apartment building; the presentation was for information purposes only.

The “Gateway Plaza” project calls for a seven or eight-story building with about 500 multifamily units, said Bryan Foulger, development executive at Foulger-Pratt. About 30 percent of the units would have two bedrooms; the rest would be a mix of one-bedroom units and efficiencies. The existing five-level parking garage would remain. The 3.8-acre property is on the edge of Fairfax County, with a small part of the site in Arlington County.

The project is expected to be reviewed by the Bailey’s Crossroads/Seven Corners Redevelopment Corporation Dec. 16. A public hearing by the Fairfax County Planning Commission on a comprehensive plan amendment – needed to change the use of the property from office to residential – is expected to take place in February 2015. The Planning Commission could consider a rezoning proposal as early as April 2015.

The termination of the Columbia Pike streetcar won’t have a big impact on the project, Foulger said. Although he would have preferred the streetcar to go forward, “we never went into this thinking the streetcar is a sure thing.”    

22 comments:

  1. Thank goodness the plan for the Route 7 shopping center got shut down. Glad to see that the community spoke up and that our voices were heard. The people who live here should be commended for focusing their efforts to make sure developers and real estate moguls aren't allowed to just jam retail into the landscape willy-nilly to turn a quick buck.

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  2. thank god some people in the county have some sense about bad development

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  3. Really they approved the funeral chapel? In the WORST place ever. Pedestrian safety, traffic congestion, parking?? Yes they do park in our neighborhood and traffic and parking in the shopping center is ridiculous. The funeral chapel will soon be busy with bodies from pedestrian and traffic accidents. God help us all!

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  4. Am so glad the community stood up and won! I don't know why Fairfax County has decided to go on a building spree lately without acknowledging the fact we are so crammed in in this area,there is no room left to breath .The traffic is so terrible,the wrecks numerous,and pedestrians are increasingly getting hit and killed as well.Yet building after new building are being planned .The schools are so filled they are having to divide them.So were are we all to go.They have new plans for hundreds of apts and houses in Seven Corners coming and new apartment buildings in Baileys and in Annandale .So,that will bring thousands of more people,cars,children for schools to an aready overcrowded area and we sit in gridlock as it is now.Were will we put all this?But that's what Fairfax Co. tends to do ,build now, worry about it later .-right????

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  5. Where is the bike path? Urban planning should include a lot of green space! Where is the walkway thru this property?

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    1. Where are the Bocce Ball Courts? Urban planning should include a lot of Bocce Ball Courts.

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  6. 2.7 acres.....a perfect size for a PARK!

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  7. Regarding the shopping center on Route 7: really? You folks would rather a trash-strewn empty field with yard-high grass for another few years? A good place only for criminals to hang out and graffiti to accumulate.

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    1. And here it sits, an empty lot that is not maintained and really won't be now, homeless people making shelters and hanging out doing their business....... yard sales in the geico parking lot. Courtland Park residents this is what you wanted!? Great for your property values!

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    2. If your grandma was going to be living across the street from a busy entrance, you would feel the same way. They need to modify the plan significantly for it to be a good project. But thanks for your outsider's insight.

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    3. > really? You folks would rather a trash-strewn empty field with yard-high grass for another few years?

      Yes! Empty lots have potential. Ugly retail stays ugly retail, usually for decades longer than anyone except landowners and chain stores want.

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    4. Who indicated that nothing would be built? Plans can be modified and that is what should be done in this case. MDLUC recognized obvious concerns and the process will now play out.

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    5. IMO nothing will be built at this site or the one at seven corners, Petition after petition, delay after delay is all this area knows. When the group who hates the site plans finally likes any newly drawn up plan, there will be a group right behind them hating it. Wash, Rinse, Repeat. I am surprised folks have not used it as a parking lot cause we all know the mason district will not do a damn thing. Just drive around and see front yards turned into driveways with parked cars 10 strong. But the good news is ever where around Bailey's, Culmore, and Seven Corners are moving forward.

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    6. so instead we should allow anything developers want to be built in our communities? if you are worried about cars parking in yards and backwards moving, you should be against another strip mall with low brow clients vs something nice that will help turn the area around. you make no sense

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    7. Anonymous 7:59, I never said allow anything the developers want to be built, but nobody is ever gonna be happy no matter what is proposed. I guarantee you that. Further, I don't find CVS, smash burger, etc... low brow. You will never have Pottery Barn, Crate and barrel, etc.. in this area as it is now. You are more apt to get a next day loan shop more than anything else. I find what was proposed better than how the area looks like now. Would it be my first choice, no, but it is better than what is there. Everywhere around here development is happening but seems to get bogged down when you come to the Bailey's/seven corners area. On one hand yes, I want to see development on the other I do not cause I believe any residential development will resemble Culmore in do time stuffed with multi-families living in one bedroom apt. The County/Mason District fails to enforce any ordinance laws. Let your grass get too high and you get a notice but stuff 5 families in a one bedroom apt. no problem. Any than we wonder why schools are so overcrowded and the answer seems to be let's just build another school.

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  8. I think this is unfortunate. 7 Corners will continue to be a second rate discount retail center (think Dress Barn and Shoppers Food Warehouse) for the foreseeable future. If we continue to place so many hurdles in the way of reasonable development no developers will want to invest in this area.

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    1. > no developers will want to invest in this area

      Well when developers get better ideas than tossing out hundreds of awful glass cubes charging $10 for ice cream and $20 for a burger, then maybe we can talk.

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    2. developers do not determine what prices retailers charge.

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  9. To clear up some confusion on this - The project isn't dead. The Mason District Land Use Committee doesn't have the authority to kill or approve projects. It merely makes a recommendation to the Planning Commission.

    The Planning Commission holds a public hearing and then votes on whether or not the project should go to the Board of Supervisors. The BoS makes the final decision. The MDLUC can have some influence in getting the developers to make some modifications.

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  10. something will end up going there but it should be something nice and not another typical fairfax strip mall which is all this basically was. rt 7 doesn't need another CVS and burger joint. the county needs more urban feel places with better retail to attract people to the area, not just another strip mall that is all over 7 and columbia pike as is. waiting a few more years to have something better is fine.

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    1. Amen, and that's what the neighbors who live next to the proposed development are trying to do.

      There is no reason to allow CVS to put a drive through in this development. This area is in the revitalization area that is supposed to discourage car-related development. A drive through is not necessary but is only there for customer convenience and so that CVS corporation can compete with other pharmacies. If we are building urban schools let's have the rest of the area be developed in urban design. We need to stand up to these corporation bullies. I was encouraged by Planning Commissioner Hall's demand/request to CVS to give us an urban building. Unfortunately, she is doing this at the very end of her 20 years of service.

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  11. Skyline has a nice skyline from afar but up close it's a bunch of glass blocks. I know more interesting = more $, but something cool-looking would set the bar for future development. I'm not sure why there are objections to a drive through pharmacy; it would mean fewer people are parking.

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