|A view of the Shops at Bailey's Crossroads on Leesburg Pike. [Spectrum Development]|
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.