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Wednesday, February 10, 2016

An open letter to Mason District residents

The following op-ed was written by three Mason District residents who are concerned about the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors’ plan to engage in a land swap to facilitate redevelopment in the Southeast Quadrant in Bailey’s Crossroads. The BoS held a hearing on the proposal Jan. 12 and is scheduled to vote on it Feb. 16. This piece reflects the views of the authors, not the Annandale Blog. 

The Bailey's Crossroads Community Shelter.
By Carol Turner, Al Cobb, and Kris Iverson

We want to inform other Fairfax County neighborhoods of what can happen while you are not looking. County government proposals pop up like whack-a-moles. 

On Jan. 7, we learned about a complicated proposed land swap/acquisition among three entities: Fairfax County, AvalonBay Communities Inc., and 5827 Columbia Pike Associates LLC. In a nutshell, the county will swap land with AvalonBay so the company can develop the corner of Columbia Pike and Moncure Avenue in the Bailey’s Crossroads area for apartments.

At the same time, the county wants to buy property from 5827 Columbia Pike Associates. The cost for the purchase of the 5827 Columbia Pike property is $6.35 million, with $880,000 for the building’s demolition. The Bailey’s Crossroads Community Shelter is currently located on the site that Avalon Bay wants to develop. In order for the county/AvalonBay land swap deal to go forward, the county must relocate the homeless shelter. 

Neighbors learned on their own that First Christian Church at 6165 Leesburg Pike in Seven Corners was approached by the county to allow the relocation of the homeless shelter to their property. Negotiations are now ongoing between the county and the church. From the church, we understand that the county will lease some of the church’s land for a temporary shelter composed of multiple trailers for a period between three to six years.

The residential neighbors nearest to the proposed temporary shelter have been told nothing by the county, despite the fact that the property of several residential property owners directly abuts the church’s property. The level of transparency regarding this whole process has been essentially non-existent.

The affected neighborhoods had two working days to prepare for a pro forma hearing by the Board of Supervisors on a land swap deal that could affect us greatly in a number of ways,  ranging from security to property values. The Board of Supervisors then scheduled a decision-only vote for Feb. 2, which was deferred until Feb. 16. The deferral was not due to concern for the taxpayers or to provide residents with more information about these proposals, but merely to give the county and partners involved more time to work out details. 

We have these questions and concerns:

(1) Why is the Board of Supervisors rushing this land deal through at the expense of uprooting an existing homeless shelter from county-owned property to a temporary facility at the First Christian Church at the expense of county taxpayers and established neighborhoods? According to the county, the relocation expenses for the shelter would cost $2.1 million. After that there would be the ongoing expenses to lease the property from the church and the trailers to house the homeless. All of this will become a new annual budget item in addition to the expense of operating the shelter. This makes no sense to us.

(2) An advocate for the homeless in Northern Virginia spoke during the Jan. 12 public hearing and requested the board not to ping-pong the shelter from place to place. She said that if it must be relocated; it should be relocated to a permanent location, not to a temporary one. We note that the proposed agreement with Avalon Bay allows the county to rent back the property for the shelter until March 2017. Surely, the county can settle on a permanent location for the homeless shelter before then. We have found and suggested to the Board of Supervisors at least two alternative locations that would be appropriate sites for a new homeless shelter.

(3) Finally, it is unclear what the county plans for the property it will purchase just west of the current shelter site from the land swap with AvalonBay. We understand that a new county human services building is being suggested, and possibly a new road to connect Seminary Road and Columbia Pike. But it should be noted that Bailey’s Crossroads currently has an office vacancy rate of 47  percent. So, if new office space is in the plan for this land acquisition, we would simply suggest that taxpayers need to fund the construction of a new office building like we need a hole in the head. We can all think of better ways to spend this money. In particular, the homeless in Fairfax County deserve a fully staffed and well equipped permanent location, and should not be moved to trailers in an inappropriate location.

As longtime residents of Mason District, we want redevelopment, but it makes no sense to force the removal of the homeless shelter to a temporary site that is not well suited for this purpose and at unnecessary expense to county taxpayers. As residents of the affected neighborhood, we continue to urge the Board of Supervisors to slow down and consider these aspects of the proposal at their Feb. 16 decision-only meeting.

57 comments:

  1. Trailers for the homeless! "the county will lease some of the church’s land for a temporary shelter composed of multiple trailers for a period between three to six years."

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    1. Well, if they're good enough for our fourth-graders to learn in...

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  2. So what are the two locations you've suggested for the homeless shelter? Surely in the interest of transparency, you'll want to share that information.

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    1. I'll show you mine if you show me yours first. Why the secret meetings. Why was the Church asked not to talk to the neighboring communities about the "negotiations".

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    2. Because talking to communities that might be impacted by anything being developed or moved or installed is deemed "not productive" because no one wants to really hear what people have to say - even if it's a better solution that would work for all parties involved and would build a stronger community.

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    3. Anon 10:24 Spot on!

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    4. If the authors of the article (and "AL" I suspect you might be one of them, but correct me if I'm wrong) feel that public knowledge, evaluation and input are important, they'd put their locations forward to be evaluated alongside the one the county is considering. Then the rest of us could draw our own conclusions as to whether these writers have a legitimate argument. That's why I asked them to share it, 7:45.

      By the way, 7:45, I'm unaware that anyone asked the Church not to talk to the neighboring communities. I'm curious who your source might be to make such an allegation.

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    5. The two alternate sites that were suggested, and which were described in testimony presented at the Jan. 12 hearing, were one on Columbia Pike and one on Seminary Road. Neither abuts a residential area or a school, and either could be the permanent location.

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  3. Two days for the community to absorb the information, for community association boards to meet, to plan and present to their communities, to discuss the many complicated issues involved, for the general memberships to come to a consensus, then to write drafts, get approval and submit.
    In a perfect world that would be two months. In a perfect world a family would work no more than 50 hours a week combined with time left over for the community. This is not a perfect world so maybe 6 months would work. Two days? Seriously, where is the respect? Don't we still have to at least pretend that the homeowners have a legitimate right to be involved in the important decision making processes of the District?

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  4. So the burden is on opponents of the plan to identify a new location for the shelter? That doesn't sound right.

    I suspect the temporary trailers will become either a permanent or at least a longer term location for the shelter.

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    1. Trailers? Sounds alot like our schools. hummmmm

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  5. Of course it doesn't sound right anon 7:47 - but the citizens in Mason District end up having to do tons of heavy land use lifting because of the piss-poor planning in the current Gross administration.

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  6. I don't care if they swapped the Government Center for a homeless shelter. Enough is enough. We need to let this development occur. Stop trying to find things wrong with this, our area desperately needs this development.

    Look around you, we are living in SLUMURBIA and that needs to change or we will never be able to move forward with our status from the "Dump" to something more desirable. Baileys needs this bad, Mason needs this bad. This is not the DMV that would have destroyed Barcroft Plaza by forcing Harris Teeter out. This will help with the sustainability of our area and local businesses. We have too many vacant stores. Let this resistance go, lets make this happen, if not for Penny for US!

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    1. We do not object to the development of this property at Bailey's Crossroads. But we believe the county should have a permanent and appropriate site for the homeless shelter before they evict the shelter from its current location. We also question the county's purchase of property for an office building we don't need.

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    2. I agree with you, but too many of the commenters on this blog are bitter clingers who oppose ANY proposed development; and then turn around and blame Penny Gross because Mason District is going downhill unlike neighboring jurisdictions which welcome development and new neighbors.

      Why is this Blog always giving a voice to the Anti-Development/Anti-Gross view.

      For fairness why not publish a piece by the proponents of the new development? Are we to believe that if they were kindly asked by the administrator / owner of this blog, the proponents would refuse to share their POV? I doubt it.

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    3. I truly feel sorry for you if you think you live in a
      "dump". We have our problems like any other community and there is always room for improvement. However, I feel extremely fortunate to live where I live. A little gratitude goes a long way. Try it sometime.

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    4. I agree. Time to gentrify this joint. Send the poors down to Springfield and Hoodridge.

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    5. I've been to real "slums" and I can assure you that you do not live in a slum.

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  7. 9:48 -- I just meant that if the opposition to the plan doesn't have an answer as to where the shelter should be relocated, that doesn't diminish their arguments.

    Perhaps I misunderstood 518, but I thought there was a suggestion to the effect of "if you don't have a better idea keep quiet."

    At any rate, I'm betting the deal happens, and it's doublewides for the homeless for at least a decade.

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    1. You did misunderstand me, 10:21. What I'm saying, to alter your phrase is "You say you've got a better idea. We're all ears--do share with the rest of the class."

      It's not the authors' responsibility to answer where the shelter should be. But they say in the letter that there are better options, and by inference suggest that the county is wrong. Yet with no specifics as to these proposed options, their vague assertions are of no particular use. Without sharing their alternate proposals, the writers betray their principled position that the public ought to have full and complete information to evaluate and decide.

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  8. sounds like people are more afraid of the homeless moving to their neighborhood more than anything else.

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    1. Do you have kids? I have kids and I would not want to live right next to a homeless shelter. I feel for the homeless and at any time any one of us could be homeless but I do not want to live directly next to a shelter. I also would not want to live on a Main Street, next to a bar, store or restaurant. I want my kids to feel good about running around safe outside. I also do not feel that our homeless should be in trailers any more than I think our school children should be in trailers.

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    2. Are homeless people inherently unsafe?

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    3. Well, people do not pay half a million dollars to have trailers adjacent to their property

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    4. I agree with "Anonymous 2/10/16 10:41 PM"

      None of the critics to the proposed development care about the homeless - unless by "caring" you mean keeping the homeless as far away and as out-of-sight as possible.

      The hypocrisy of the critics is obvious and appalling.

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    5. Appalling is that we are booting the homeless out of their shelter for luxury apartments without a permanent replacement. Even the homeless advocates petitioned for a permanent shelter to no avail. Painting concerned citizens as antihomeless trogledytes is unserious and a distraction to the poor planning and nonexistent process of this raw deal.

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    6. you think the homeless are going to attack your kids? have some decency and common sense. these people want to get back on their feet and not to be homeless. it is shameful to ask the county to keep them away from you. how would you feel if you lost you house and you were ashamed and embarrassed and then on top of it you have some people thinking you shouldn't even have a place to sleep near them as you might hurt their children.

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    7. I love how people twist words and judge on the blog.

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  9. Is this area zoned for trailer parks?

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  10. So if you take a look at the First Christian Church property - street view on Google Maps - much of their property has trees at the rear after the parking lot ends. Just where would these trailers go? Would green space be lost to put trailers in?

    It's actually not a terrible location for homeless people to be (and possibly become church members - part of a community that would ostensibly want to help them) as far as walkability, access to buses and to more possible jobs (thereby alleviating a possible homeless issue after some time on the job).

    The map also shows a family shelter at the corner of Patrick Henry and Leesburg Pike - so homeless people are not new to the area. I am aware that at one time, there were services available to lower income families somewhere within the apartment complex that is on the corner across the street from the family center. Great stuff for these folks too.

    Despite noting the above, I still am troubled by the lack of communication with the Mason District community and the lack of comprehensive information sharing (transparency) about development plans and any comprehensive plans for the area beyond just developing things in a one-off manner. It is difficult to read the comprehensive plan - but I have, with its amendments. It does not, however, explain how these projects fit in and to get to that, you must request the documentation from the Planning Commission or BoS clerk and sift through it. And you will find out that unless you show up to question and challenge things, anyone can say just about anything to the BoS and they have no obligation to research any of it. They rely, or not, on the Planning Commission doing the detail work and making recommendations - but the PC's recommendations are not binding on the BoS.

    Also, it is hard to get information, period, if you don't know the right questions to ask.

    Perhaps this is the nature of politics and always has been. Ideally, we'd be working toward a cohesive Mason District community that has a long range plan and vision of it's own that fits the comprehensive plan.

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    1. Put the homeless trailers at the Mason Government Center.

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    2. now we're talking

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    3. now we're talking!

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    4. I love that idea.

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    5. There are significantly more residential properties near Mason Government Center than near First Christian Church, and significantly fewer transit options.

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  11. Here is an out of the box idea. Why does the County not build a few Tiny Villages for the Homeless in Warehouse Districts throughout the County. They can have a main building for showers, County services and common area. Each Tiny House could have a mini kitchen, toilet, bed & table. There could be a common grassy area. The whole area could be fenced off to the public and be gated. If a homeless is blessed with a Tiny House then they can help by providing services to the main building such as a chore chart. Everyone could takes turns cleaning the facility and that would be a requirement to live there.

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    1. Many other communities have learned that by providing housing and taking away that worry from people, they do actually thrive and move ahead barring any other major issues that prevent that. I'm not sure that segregating the homeless population in warehouse districts is the answer, as we want to have them step back into the community.

      The idea of having anyone participate as part of the community they live in is a good idea. Who wants to go pick up trash in the neighborhood with me?

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  12. FUN FACT: According to VPAP.ORG, the authors of this "open letter" - Carol Turner, Kris Iverson, and Al Cobb - were all major campaign contributors to Mollie Loeffler's campaign.

    So this raises the question - is there truly a concern here, or are they just playing politics (again) with a redevelopment proposal?




    So it

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    1. I do not understand this comment. Are you saying if contribute to Mollie you can not have concerns on how things are handled in the Mason District? Mollie lost so those who support her can no longer have an opinion?

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    2. It appears that "Fan Fact" is the one trying politicize this by characterizing the authors as "major donors" who in reality donated respectively $300, $100, and $348 to Loeffler's campaign (also according to VAPAP.ORG).

      And the redevelopment itself is not the issue that is raised in this letter. It's moving the homeless shelter to a temporary location, when the County will be renting back the property from the developer until March 2017, which seems sufficient time to find a more permanent location, without the additional cost of moving this facility twice.

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    3. FUN FACT: Loeffler received more donations from the residents of Mason District than Gross.

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    4. FUN FACT 2:

      Loeffler lost the election by 17 points and is a nobody.

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    5. Mollie couldn't even win her own precinct, Parklawn.

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    6. Reply to Anonymous 1:42 and 8:31:
      Gross, a 20 year incumbent Democrat, won with only 15% of registered voters. Such a deep sense of political hopelessness prevails in Mason District that voters, as usual, stayed home and disengaged. Not so in the more involved and informed precincts where Mollie won. Still, this "nobody", Mollie Loeffler, scared Gross's campaign manager so badly he thought it necessary to spend special interest campaign revenues of well over $300,000 for the year and crank up the misinformation game to shameful new heights. Yes, the Tea Party accusations were BS. 17% is outstanding actually for a first time independent challenger.
      Yes, Mollie did not win in her own neighborhood which under Gross's leadership has, like so many single family neighborhoods in Mason, devolved into a new de facto zoning district: residential/industrial-park/multifamily, but it is not like Mollie didn’t do everything in her power to help her beleaguered neighborhood while Gross did nothing but say that nothing can be done. We can only hope Mollie will give us another chance for change and that in four years there will still be enough of the district not sold off to outside interests for us to rebuild. And of course, we must hope that in the meantime, we will gain a much better sense of when our incumbents are picking our pockets and lying to us with big, warm, sympathetic smiles on their faces.

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    7. Egregious Code Violator2/18/16, 12:53 PM

      To Anonymous 2:02. The letter definitely has bi-partisan authorship. If you get into the details of this land swap, the odor gets worse and worse. It has bipartisan opposition because both Republicans and Democrats have noses. Heritty was the only one to recuse himself but most if not all of those voting in favor of the swap took more money from the developers/owners than he did. We the people are really getting screwed on this slimy deal. Penny may not have broken the law, but only because the law is so broken.

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    8. Gross only wants to look at spreadsheets and make believe she is governor of Fairfax County while her district crumbles.

      Has anyone noticed that Penny's Mason Mascot, the garbage bag hanging on a tree at Lincolnia Rd in front of Justine's chicken is still there, unbelievable! That says it all, in one hanging bag of crap.

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  13. I am 8:23 and as much as I love the idea I would not want this concept inside my neighborhood. I bought a SFH to be in that type of neighborhood and I would not want to look outside and see a bunch of roofs and homes. I also would not want apartments or townhouses in my neighborhood. I think you would have many people supporting this project of a village of tiny houses if it was in a Warehouse District instead of the middle of their neighborhood.

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  14. Above the Noise2/12/16, 3:34 PM

    The fire breathers who wrote this article are all Nativist, Anti-Penny, Anti-Progress blowhards.

    I appreciate that Ellie is taking the step to make sure it is indicated that this is not the opinion of the Blog.

    But for once Ellie, it would be nice to put a pro-progress opinion out there. Maybe the people who claim you are in the firebreather's pocket will change their tune....

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    1. Ellie has published numerous pro-development pieces.

      http://annandaleva.blogspot.com/2015/01/by-right-projects-are-impeding.html?m=1

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  15. I think we can all agree that it is past time for revitalization in Mason District.

    However, why can't Penny give the people what they want? Mixed use residentail/retail! The plan for the Southeast Quadrant that goes to vote this tuesday doesn't include mixed use residential/retail. No walkable village that neighbors dream about. Instead lots of apartments, yet another expensive county human services building, a possible new road to Seminary (the current exit from Columbia Pike to Seminary is never congested). Bad, bad deal for citizens of Mason District. HUGE waste of taxpayer dollars here.

    Plus, the plight of the homeless. FFX Co. doesn't have any standards for homeless shelters. Arlington followed best practices as do many jurisdictions around the coutry. This means that you don't put single adult shelters within 2500 feet of schools, day care centers and women's and children's shelters. You don't abut shelters next to private residential single family homes. All of these exist within 2500 feet of First Christian Church. Parking trailers at First Christian Church is a substandard solution.

    Bailey's Crossroads has a 47% commercial vacancy rate. There are permanent locations available. In the meantime, the county could park trailers at the Mason District Government Center. The police station is there to secure the trailers, unlike the situation at the church. And, it saves taxpayers money. The rent is free on county property.

    Or, how about the county-owned elementary school in Annandale that once housed the Senior Center. Penny closed down the Annandale senior program, so what is going on there now? An appropriate permanent solution is needed.

    Unfortunately Penny plays ping pong with the poor in her real estate games. Remember she favored forced relocation of 589 families in the Seven Corners Plan. This latest real estate game shows her disdain for the disadvantaged and her constituents. This deal is no good for anyone.

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    1. Rumors have it that Glory Days Restaurant may be negotiating with Federal Realty again since the community and Harris Teeter outwitted the dimwits that thought the DMV would be a good use at Barcroft Plaza; where that use would have been a detriment to the community and retailers at the shopping center.

      I agree with the above comment, put the homeless in adaptive re-use locations instead of busting up neighborhoods with the District leadership's ill-advised destabilizing urban planning solutions of ramrodding the homelessness in inappropriate locations. If this District wasn't the Section 8 capital of the metro area we would not have many of our problems with luring good development and tax paying young professional families.

      Hopefully, the Mason District Community and PG's office wont screw up the Avalon Bay deal where their non-stop deliberations of scale, land swap deals and appropriateness manage to recoil into never never land. Its unbelievable how so many know nothings profess to be experts on urban planning and economic revitalization.

      Have not heard from a professional yet on this debate. Maybe the County only accepts advice from professionals with Dumpster Degrees.

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    2. I do hope Glory Days comes in. That will be a postive for the Mason District.

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  16. Wow be careful for what you wish for. The county has found its permanent site for the homeless shelter, and it will be at the expense of the Lincolnia Senior Center's residents. After opening a "temporary" shelter in the field behind the Senior Center, they will justify taking over the Senior Center itself because all of the criteria the county says that makes the field the front runner for the "temporary" shelter can apply just as well to the Senior Center building itself. But I guess those old, low-income people (often sick and disabled) had it coming. You know what I mean for having the nerve to grow old and all.




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