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Thursday, January 21, 2016

Supervisors approve Spectrum retail center in Bailey's Crossroads

Spectrum's latest design for the shopping center on Route 7.
After many deferrals and revisions over the past year and a-half, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors finally approved a rezoning request to allow Spectrum Development to build a shopping center on Leesburg Pike in Bailey’s Crossroads.

“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.
Despite those changes, the planning staff still opposes the project, primarily because the CVS entrance is not directly on Leesburg Pike and the proposed realignment of Charles Street fails to meet VDOT standards.

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.

21 comments:

  1. I am disappointed by this development. I was pleased by the perfect little suburban "pocket forest" that was growing on this site. I was planning on taking my kids camping there when the weather got a little nicer.

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  2. One could fit very many more empty containers of malt liquor and Four Locos into that lot before Yet Another Damn CVS becomes preferable.

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  3. i like that Supervisor Jeff McKay had the courage to stand up to CVS but Supervisor Gross did not. If she told them she wouldn't pass it if they didn't lose the drive-thru, you don't think they wouldn't have. Problem is she is too lazy to pick up the phone and find out or maybe all that money from developers is clouting her judgement.

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    1. Please define courage? I usually define it with deeds such as a firefighter running up WTC on 9/11 or MLK marching in hostile environment not a supervisor casting a vote for or against a shopping center.

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    2. courage is voting against the second most powerful person in the county when you have no reason to do so other than its the right thing.

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    3. SECOND MOST POWERFUL PERSON IN THE COUNTY!!!...you got me shaking in my boots.

      It's still just a proposal for a small shopping center and THE right thing to do for that lot.

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  4. What exactly is a "soft denial?" I thought "no" meant "no." Sounds a lot like double secret probation to me.

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    1. Something the Supervisor made up to cover her own ass. The staff report says denial and there aren't levels of it and they don't use the word soft in it once.

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  5. A CVS? We're saved! Right now I have to travel nearly 6 blocks to reach a CVS....

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    1. The CVS on Jefferson street is suppposed to close when this one opens up.

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  6. This is a disappointment. And I find it hard to stomach that the leadership and constituency of dumpy, car-dependent Route 1 in Alexandria can successfully lobby against a CVS with a drive through, but we can't.

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    1. right on point. seems like the supervisor considers CVS to be high end retail and also feel like they should get a long list of exceptions passed to be able to do what they want.

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  7. I bought my house adjacent to land ripe for development on a very busy street, how could have I possibly known that someday they would build stores on Leesburg Pike amidst other already existing stores. Someone, BoS, save me from my lack of foresight.

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    1. maybe you missed the part where they expanded the commercial zone into the residential and are tearing down 2 houses for this project. the people a few houses into the neighborhood should not have expected this was a possibility as it wasn't on the county's long term plans or any where till this project sprang up

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    2. If your within block or even two of Leesburg Pike, Columbia Pike or 236, you should expect anything.

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  8. who wants to bet that VDOT denies the waiver and then it gets passed the way it was before as Gross will shrug and say "we tried".

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  9. The funny thing is that the same 3 wackobirds, like those above, who complain about Penny constantly actually besmirch the good work is trying to do.

    This is not a blog about Penny, this is not the Penny Gross Blog. It is a blog about the Annandale and Mason District area. Start a private chatroom for your Penny bashing!!Here we would rather discuss broader issues.

    That being said, I am not thrilled with this development structure. But I hope it continues to improve in composition as time goes forward.

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    1. Yes but who makes all the decisions for Mason and Annandale and ignores the citizens? There wouldn't be too much complaining about one person if they didn't make so many awful decisions ignoring input!

      How will this improve in composition when it was approved this way? That is it, its not getting better as it was passed as is.

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  10. We have to start making improvements and if CVS is the only company willing to make the financial plunge then so be it, the land was a waste and getting worse by the year. If the home owners next to it joined together maybe they could purchase and improve the way the like. No takers? Then work to improve for the rest of the underserved strip that is Leesburg Pike.

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  11. DW Smith is right. Oh, I guess no one on this forum ever needs a drug store? If the county would have turned this land into a nice park, that would have been fine. But they haven't. So retail is the obvious improvement over an empty and messy field.

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    1. Unfortunately, I think you'll get a fair amount of people that actually would prefer blight over a CVS. I can't tell if they're joking.

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