|Spectrum's latest design for the shopping center on Route 7.|
“We now have a more viable and agreeable application than what was proposed two years ago,” said Mason Supervisor Penny Gross at the Jan. 12 BoS meeting. The developer made “a lot of changes and concessions in consultation with the neighbors. It’s not perfect but it’s a lot better than it was.”
|The shopping center would have two buildings now instead of three. The building on the left is a CVS. The drive-through is in the middle of the site. The road on top is Leesburg Pike.|
“Revitalization is the goal. Getting there is extremely difficult,” Gross said.
Gross proposed two additional conditions, which the board approved: The county will study options for transportation improvements to realign Charles Streets on both sides of Leesburg Pike, which she said could lead to the redevelopment of the shopping center on the north side of Route 7. Also, Spectrum agreed to install an irrigation system to ensure the viability of the landscaping.
Jeffrey Saxe, representing Spectrum, described a series of changes the developer made to overcome objections from the county’s planning staff and community members:
- The pharmacy drive-through for the stand-alone CVS was moved to the center of the project.
- A small, third retail building was eliminated.
- The entrance to the CVS was moved to Charles Street where it would be visible from Route 7.
- A seven-foot wall and landscaping will serve as a buffer between the parking lot and residential area.
- The access point on Washington Drive was moved closer to Route 7, although that change requires a waiver from VDOT.
- At least two of the store entrances will face Leesburg Pike.
- The right-of-way to realign Charles Street was expanded.
|Here's what the site looked like in September.|
During the public hearing before the vote, Washington Drive resident Brian Lowit reminded Gross that she had promised to vote against the project “if the planning staff gave it three negative reviews.” Gross said she considers the latest planning staff recommendation “a soft denial” and noted that Spectrum made a lot of concessions to meet residents’ concerns.
Other residents who urged the BoS to reject the development cited many of the same objections that have been raised at previous hearings: noise, traffic, trash, insufficient buffers, and the need for public funds to pay for the road alignment.
Three residents of the Bunyas family, whose property is adjacent to the site, complained about having to live next door to a fast food restaurant, which would attract odors, litter, and rodents. Another neighbor, Nicholas Ferk, raised concerns about high tenant turnover. “What’s it going to be like in two years? Culmore is not improving,” he said.
Gross noted that Spectrum had already agreed to move the dumpsters to the center of the site and to expand the buffer next to the Bunyas’ house. Spectrum also agreed to restrict the hours for deliveries, construction, and store operations, although the CVS could still be open 24 hours a day.
|The proposed CVS, as seen from the Leesburg Pike/Charles Street intersection.|
Irene Xenos, one of the most vocal critics of the development, said she agreed to drop her opposition following an agreement between her attorney and Spectrum on moving the entrance on Washington Drive away from the driveway of her elderly grandmother, Concetta Difalco.
That would put the entrance closer to the intersection with Leesburg Pike than allowed by VDOT. If VDOT refuses to grant a waiver, any additional modifications of the plan would have to be approved by the Planning Commission and BoS, county staff assured Xenos.
Another major complaint is the failure to eliminate the pharmacy drive-through, which goes against the objective in the Bailey’s Crossroads revitalization plan to promote walkability.
Saxe said eliminating the drive-through was a “non-starter” for CVS. Pharmacy drive-throughs only have an average of seven cars an hour, he said, which is much less than drive-throughs at banks and fast food restaurants.
“It could be done,” said Supervisor Jeff McKay (Lee), noting that a CVS just opened on Route 1 without a drive-through, even though the company had fought hard to retain it. In the end, McKay was the only one to vote against the Spectrum project.