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Monday, January 19, 2015

Planning Commission defers decision on Bailey's Crossroads retail center

A view of the Shops at Bailey's Crossroads on Leesburg Pike. [Spectrum Development]
The Fairfax County Planning Commission agreed unanimously to defer until Jan. 22 a recommendation on a proposal to allow a retail center on Leesburg Pike in Bailey’s Crossroads. The Board of Supervisors is scheduled to hear the issue on Jan. 27.

Spectrum Development is seeking a rezoning and zoning special exception to develop a three-building shopping center, with a stand-alone CVS, on a 2.75 acre-property between Charles Street and Washington Drive. The property contains a Geico claims center, two houses, and a weedy vacant lot.

About a dozen local residents spoke against the project at the Planning Committee’s public hearing Jan. 14.

The motion to defer was made by Julie Strandlie of Mason District, the newest member of the Planning Commission. The area needs to be developed, she said, but while the developer has made some concessions in response to concerns of residents and county staff, she still has major concerns about a drive-through pharmacy at the CVS, the placement of the CVS loading dock, and the plan to align Charles Street and Glen Forest Drive.

The Mason District Land Use Committee in November urged the Planning Commission to deny the zoning application. In September, the Board of Supervisors approved the applicant’s request to change the Bailey’s Crossroads section of the Fairfax County Comprehensive Plan to facilitate the project. It can’t go forward, however, unless the zoning changes are approved.

Strandlie’s predecessor on the Planning Commission, Janet Hall, urged the commissioners to reject the zoning application.

The area does need to be redeveloped, Hall said, but “it has to make sense,” and the proposal for a drive-through pharmacy doesn’t fit in with the area’s plan. Hall met with CVS officials to ask them to drop the drive-through, but “CVS said it’s our way or the highway,” she said. “The developer and CVS are confused. They think this is a suburban area. It’s not; it’s an urban area.”

A staff report from the Fairfax County Department of Planning and Zoning  recommends the Planning Commission deny the application unless key changes are made. “Staff is concerned with the design and orientation of the buildings, particularly the free-standing pharmacy,” said Brent Krasner. The site is in a “gateway location” with respect to the Bailey’s Crossroads business center, and staff believes “the design will establish the tone for the quality of redevelopment along this corridor.”

Krasner also cited concerns with the proposed location of the drive-through for the pharmacy on a prominent spot at the corner of Charles Street and Leesburg Pike and said the Bailey’s Crossroads plan discourages auto-oriented uses.

Krasner said CVS’s loading dock near Leesburg Pike, which could block some parking spaces, is also a problem, the design of the CVS doesn’t fit with the design of the other stores, and the proposal for realigning Charles Street  doesn’t work.

County officials and Spectrum disagreed on the angle of the road alignment. If the realignment was carried out as proposed by the planning staff, Spectrum would lose so much property, the project would no longer be feasible, argued William B. Lawson Jr. on behalf of Spectrum.

Adrian Dominguez, the owner of the two shopping centers on either side of Glen Forest Drive on the other side of Leesburg Pike, said she opposes the realignment because it would mean the loss of 28 parking spaces in those centers. She said she wasn’t even informed about the road alignment until three weeks ago.

Planning Commissioner Janyce Hedetniemi (at large) questioned why the roads need to be realigned at all. Michael Davis of  the Fairfax County Department of Transportation said the alignment had been planned for a long time and it would improve traffic flow on Leesburg Pike, promote pedestrian safety, and improve access to neighborhoods.

Jeffrey Saxe, representing Spectrum, said several changes were made as requested by staff, including the addition of windows on the side of CVS facing Charles Street, screening the drive-through, and eliminating single servings of beer at the CVS to discourage on-site consumption.

Saxe said other suggested changes wouldn’t work, such as moving the CVS entrance to Leesburg Pike and getting rid of the CVS drive through. 

Brian Lowit, a resident of Washington Drive, told the commissioners the plan for Bailey’s Crossroads calls for development that is urban in character and accessible to pedestrians, while this project is “a slightly dressed-up strip mall” that “adds no value to our community.” There are pharmacies less than half a mile away, he said..

Maria Xenos, the daughter of Concetta Difalco, who will be 93 next month, spoke tearfully about how increased traffic would block the driveway of Difalco’s home, and the two of them would no longer be able to walk up and down the driveway for exercise. The house is across the street from the entrance to the proposed shopping center.

Nicholas Xenos, Maria’s son explained that his mother was upset because Difalco’s husband was killed on his front porch by a motorcyclist. He also raised concerns about increased foot traffic in the neighborhood, noting that there’s a lot of trash in the neighborhood and that people urinate and leave chicken bones and condoms in  peoples’ yards.

Charles Street resident Wade Beach said he was concerned about traffic on side streets and the possibility of a fast food restaurant coming to the center. Christina Beach said she prefers a park on the site. “Once land is covered with asphalt, it won’t ever come back,” she said.


  1. anyone that has ever been to that area knows it is more urban than parts of DC.

  2. I was struck by the irony in former Planning Commissioner Hall's statement that “The developer and CVS are confused. They think this is a suburban area. It’s not; it’s an urban area.”

    How many of the Mason District population opposing the Charles Street/Washington Drive retail center project (not including the immediately impacted neighbors) because the retail center is suitable for a suburban, not urban setting are also opposed to the close by proposed Apartment Building/Elementary School project because it is not appropriate for this part of Fairfax County because that project is too urban-oriented?

    If developers are "confused" the reason is the contradictory demands of Fairfax County Government Officials representing the contradictory desires of their constitutents.

    The suggestion of Christina Beach for a "park" on this site on Leesburg Pike is perhaps understandable but is totally unrealistic. Why would anybody buy any property in a commercial area in Bailey's Crossroads if all they can do with the land is open it to all as a "park."

    I think it would be helpful for an educated discussion of this matter if Ms. Ashford reminds us all once again what the owner of this property can build and operate on this property "by-right" without further negotiations with Fairfax County and the immediate neighbors.

    For example, can the owner build and operate a self-storage facility, bank, gas station/car wash, or a three-story (or higher) office complex?

    Thanks to Ms. Ashford for reporting on this proposed project and for any further information she is able to share with her readers on this matter.

    1. The confusion comes from the fact that Janet Hall and Penny Gross have taken it upon themselves to declare what is clearly a suburban area an urban area. Penny can sell off Mason District at a higher price if its 'urban'.

  3. This controversy was started by a group on NIMBY's who bought homes too close to a commercial site and don't wish to face the consequences. Spectrum has every right to build on that site. They've made an effort to address the concerns of the neighborhood, but that effort was clearly in vain. So, it's time for the Planning Commission to quit stalling and approve this project.

    1. AMEN! Well put Anonymous 2:20

    2. The neighbors do not oppose redevelopment. Also, did you happen to miss the part of this story about how the former Mason planning commissioner urged the commissioners to reject the zoning application?

    3. exactly. no one is opposing redevelopment. what is being opposed is that they are asking for exceptions they shouldn't get based on the county's plan for the area. the county has a plan that even covers this lot and says it shouldn't include drive throughs or fast food. the developers are asking the county to ignore that and for them to grant them to do what the county said they didn't want there. the neighbors want the county to stick with what they were told would happen with that lot. pretty simple.

    4. You seem to know a lot about what Spectrum has offered.

      You must be aware of my home address then as well, given your seemingly intimate knowledge of this project.

      I invite anyone hiding behind the veil of anonymity to speak with me. After all, the area is so amazingly pedestrian friendly that you can just walk on over to my house. Don't be a coward and insult me, my family, and my neighbors online.

      To clarify on Spectrum, they are not only using the current commercially zoned lots (which none of us in the community has a problem with), but by increasing their space by removing homes on both Washington and Charles and replacing those homes with parking spaces, dumpsters, and delivery areas.

      Spectrum is further requesting rezoning so that instead of having office buildings, they can have retail, Drive Thru pharmacy, and fast food. None of those things are currently allowed for in that area and none of those things are needed in the area, as we have approximately 5 other pharmacies in the area, including a Rite Aid that has an unusable drive thru area that was denied by Supervisor Gross in the past.

      As for the efforts being made by the developers, they still refuse to move their entrance and exit, which means that my driveway will be directly across the street from that entrance. Spectrum offered $3,000 in landscaping to my family, but anyone with even 10% of a brain, let alone half a brain, understands that proper landscaping cost way more than that, especially when you are trying to mitigate the impact of commercial businesses.

      I repeat myself when I say that I am happy to talk to anyone who is willing to come out from behind their computer screen and have a serious discussion rather than throwing insults around.

      We are not against development as a general rule. We are against this high impact development that seeks additional land and rezoning and leaks into the neighborhood and creates safety hazards.

    5. "In September, the Board of Supervisors approved the applicant’s request to change the Bailey’s Crossroads section of the Fairfax County Comprehensive Plan to facilitate the project."

      So why have a Comprehensive Plan that includes restrictions on fast food and drive-thru businesses for those sites, when the BOS will just turn around and approve builders to build fast food and drive-thru businesses? I agree with Irene.

    6. "Spectrum has every right to build on that site".

      The developers, in fact, did not have every right to build what they proposed on that site. They had to get the County's Comprehensive Plan changed and the lots have to be rezoned before they had any right to do what they propose.

      I find it interesting and disappointing the planning commission is going against the wishes of the residents/voters, the very tenured and just retired district planning commissioner, the Mason District Land Use Committee and Fairfax County Staff.

      Who exactly does the Planning Commission represent?

      It is now in the hands of the Board of Supervisors to determine if Spectrum will have the right to build what they want.

  4. lets be clear, the developers are asking for this to be rezoned. it is currently zoned for townhouse type offices and not a strip mall and fast food and drive throughs are also not currently allowed. the county wants the property to be developed and is willing to allow something other than the town house type offices but want something more walkable and urban than other locations on rt 7 as they hope long term everything on 7 would be that way. so no a self-storage facility, bank, gas station/car wash could not go there currently either and would have to go through this same process.

    it should also be mentioned that multiple houses on residential streets would be torn down for this. it is not a small project.

    Christina said ideally it would be a park but she knew that wasn't going to happen and she was just looking for it to be something that wouldn't be too noisy.

    1. For the sake of "clarity" please elaborate on the statement "multiple houses on residential streets would be torn down."

      How many houses exactly do you mean by "multiple"?

      Five houses? Ten Houses? Two Houses?

      The statement this is "not a small project" is subjective. Anyone with a different viewpoint is free to disagree.

      Thank you for "clarifying" Ms. Beach "knew" what she "prefers" "wasn't going to happen and she was just looking for it to be something that wouldn't be too noisy."

      Because you are very knowledgable on this matter please explain how a drive-through CVS and several retail stores are "too noisy" and what more preferred "urban" development on Leesburg Pike in Bailey's Crossroads would be less noisy.

      Let's be clear that urban areas are generally not known for being oases of peace and quiet and as the first commenter on this blog post noted "anyone that has ever been to that area knows that it is more urban than parts of DC."

    2. Anonymous, the Comprehensive Plan stipulates that development for these parcels of land NOT include drive thru and NOT include fast food. We have a comprehensive plan to help us and our lawmakers approve thoughtful and balanced development of our community. Approving the fast food and drive thru business at this site will undermine this effort.

      How is this area "more urban that parts of DC"? Could you explain?

  5. i love that one of the Anonymous is obviously someone from Spectrum. LOL. What efforts have you made exactly? you are trying to change the footprint of the commercial lot and also what is allowed to be there. it isn't a case of NIMBY but a case of you aren't just allowed to do what ever you want.

    1. I wish I were with Spectrum. They pay really well. This shopping center will be built. Oh yes, it will. Nothing can stop it. As reported here, on September 23, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved the development of a shopping center on this site. Other than a minor street alignment issue, the real controversy here is whether or not CVS will get a drive through. That's significant because such a feature would add considerable value to this store. Notwithstanding the cries of the NIMBY's or the predictable opposition of Barbara Hall's clone, Spectrum's application is not unreasonable for a site in this location. Hence, the BOS cannot arbitrarily deny the zoning application merely because its opponents would prefer that CVS adopt another store configuration. Sorry guys. The business of America is business.

    2. Hmmm, you seem to be confused. This has not gone to the BOS yet. As this current story reports, it is at the Planning Commission phase in the process (and not looking too good). The next step in the process is the BOS.

    3. The Board of Supervisors already approved the plan amendment for the project. The rezoning and special exception zoning applications will be taken up by the Planning Commission this week and the Board of Supervisors next week.

    4. how would you know that they pay well? you seem to know a lot about this issue .it actually can be stopped as the land use committee voted to deny it and the planning staff reports is negative based on a lot of factors. also that isn't a minor street alignment. go home you seem drunk.

  6. Keep Culmore Crappy!

    1. seems to be the county and spectrums goal

  7. Really, a CVS? You could kick a ball from this lot to the Rite-Aid down the block. Perhaps this shopping center will have other things people are just clamoring for, like a seventh cafe or a nineteenth bank!

    The only people who are going to benefit from this concrete pustule of commerce are the developers. Little pockets of BS stores no one cares about is the blight of the Mason District at large - if we're talking 20-50 year plans, I don't see how it matters if the establishments which utilize the real estate are legal loan sharks or yuppie-friendly organic burgers. The Planning Commission is talking out of both sides of its mouth. Why not do something Actually Worthwhile with such a rare blank slate?

  8. How about medical/dental/healthcare facilities? Law offices or adult education facilities (NoVa classrooms, ITT Tech type) or a multi-level fitness center that could benefit the community? I suppose boutique stores can't afford the rents and there's already a glut of office space on the market for small businesses.

  9. "1/20 3:07 PM" and "Pam B" are you attacking what the developer has proposed for this site as "this concrete pustule of commerce," and offering alternatives such medical/health/law/adult education offices, respectively; because that is what you would prefer for the site; or have you performed market and site surveys to determine these services would be commercially successful and can be built on this site?

    If you have been paying attention at all to the business activity that has been taking place in Bailey's Crossroads recently what really needs to be built on this site is obvious.

    This site needs to be developed into a first-class hookah lounge to compete against the Babylon Futbol Cafe and the other hookah lounges in the immediate vicinity that are nice, but do not offer the high-class experience the market in this area clearly desires.

    Building a first-class hookah lounge on such a "rare blank slate" would most definitely be "Actually Worthwhile" for the Bailey's Crossroads community.

  10. I am familiar with the area as my children went to school at the former Fairfax Brewster school on Glen Forest, took karate at the former Jeff Smith studios at Glen Forest & Rt. 7, and were in scout troops at Culmore Methodist for decades with many local children. We know and heard from the anti-gang force officer (who grew up there and has several degrees) who has never had to use his gun. I taught ESL there for several years and know many striving and caring residents. If we can help uplift immigrant families the next generation will improve the neighborhood organically and we can hasten that with positive development and encouragement. Unless you have 100% First Nation blood your ancestors were once striving immigrants too. There are people who are less than upstanding in every neighborhood and income level (we just call it "white collar crime & the lying and cheating involves more people and more money). Duangrats and Peking Gourmet are longstanding destination restaurants for the entire region, so positive immigrant businesses can flourish here (Raaga and the middle eastern cafe are also lovely). If we can uplift the people there now, the children can grow into the next generation of professionals, not criminals, and improve the area organically as well as by development.