|The Working Group's final meeting, at Bailey's Elementary School.|
The Seven Corners Special Working Group on Opportunity Area C (the Sears site) endorsed a plan for redeveloping the Sears site with less residential density than its earlier draft. The group’s final recommendation, approved March 4, calls for 275 multifamily units and 60 townhouses.
That’s a compromise between the draft plan endorsed by the group Feb. 5, which called for 375 multifamily units and 72 townhouses, and an alternative plan from members of the group representing the Ravenwood Park, Ravenwood, and Buffalo Hills neighborhoods. That alternative plan called for 200 multifamily units and 55 townhouses.
|An illustration of the development concept for the Sears site.|
The working group didn’t change the amount of square feet for nonresidential development in its earlier draft, which would be 40,000 square feet of retail, 50,000 square feet of office space, and 45,000 square feet for entertainment uses.
The lower density in the neighborhood plan “is not meant to close the door” on development, said Marty Machowsky of Ravenwood Park. Developers that want more density would come to the community to explain why, he said. “This will move the process forward,” and it offers the best opportunity for the community to establish a baseline, he said; once the plan amendment goes to the planning commission, the community will have less influence.
“This is realistic and appropriate,” said Catriona McCormack of Ravenwood. “We’re not trying to make this impossible.”
Some members of the Working Group preferred the density amounts tentatively approved last month because they felt setting them too low would discourage developers. The members who came up with the neighborhood plan, however, said their plan took into account the land value after development and found it would be in the ballpark of what consultants Jones Lang LaSalle said is needed to attract developers.
In the end, the Working Group easily agreed on the compromise. Marty Faga, the group’s chair, said the final numbers of residential units are far less than what was proposed a year ago and are still economically feasible.
The Working Group didn’t make any other changes in the general concept and overall layout of the draft plan approved last month, although it did revise some of the language in the proposed comprehensive plan amendment for the entire Seven Corners area.
The Sears site proposal envisions the area as a “mixed-use village” with buildings up to six stories along Leesburg Pike and tapering down to three stories next to the existing neighborhoods. There would be a new internal road network within the site with access from Leesburg Pike.
Development would consist of a mix of neighborhood-serving retail, offices, and multifamily housing. Amenities would include publicly accessible park spaces, street-level retail, and cafes with outdoor seating. The area between Juniper Lane and Patrick Henry Drive, known as the “orphan parcel,” would be accessible from Juniper, and not Patrick Henry. Twelve percent of residential units would be “affordable housing” for households with a range of incomes up to 100 percent of the area median.
The proposed plan amendment for Seven Corners includes several follow-on motions to be presented to the Board of Supervisors.
The Sears Working Group revised the one on transportation. They recommend the county conduct a transportation study to evaluate various options, such as closing Juniper Lane and strategies for avoiding cut-through traffic in neighborhoods. Transportation improvements would be phased in as development occurs. Funding would come from a variety of state, regional, federal, and county sources, plus proffers from developers.
The group also amended the follow-on amendment addressing school capacity needs. The new text lists the “traditional” means of increasing capacity and calls for FCPS to evaluate other means, such as “private buildings to accommodate adult education classes and government and quasi government-related programs such as after-school programs and Head Start.
“The impact of development on schools should be mitigated by developers and the county,” it says. “Any impact on public facilities (particularly schools), services, and transportation necessitated by any increased density must be addressed with provisions for mitigation before work begins. Under the envisioned plan for growth, there will be a need for a new elementary school, as well as capacity enhancements at the middle and high school levels.”
“This puts the group on record as saying we need a new school,” said school board member Sandy Evans (Mason).