|Lincolnia residents put up this sign on Little River Turnpike in Lincolnia.|
Deputy County Executive Robert Stalzer defended Fairfax County’s plans to relocate a homeless shelter and construct a county office building as part of the proposed Southeast Quadrant redevelopment in Bailey’s Crossroads.
Several dozen Lincolnia residents brought their concerns about the shelter relocation to a meeting of the Bailey’s Crossroads/Seven Corners Revitalization Corporation (BC7RC) April 19. The county is planning to temporarily move the Bailey’s Crossroads Community Shelter to a field it owns behind the Lincolnia Senior Center and adjacent to the Stonegate at Landmark and Charleston Square townhouse communities.
The temporary shelter would be housed in a modular structure in Lincolnia for up to five years until the county can locate a permanent site. Stalzer agreed it would be preferable to move the shelter to a permanent site now, but conceded the county hasn’t been able to find one yet.
|An informal soccer game on the field behind the Lincolnia Senior Center where the Bailey's Crossroads homeless shelter is expected to be relocated.|
Stalzer later told the Annandale Blog that he would like to find a suitable site in an industrial location in the Edsall Road/Backlick Road area but it has to remain in Mason District.
In July 2014, the county was planning to purchase the site of a former veterinary clinic on Seminary Road for use as a shelter, but someone else bought the property two days before the county was able to act, he said. The county also had two other industrial locations in mind, “but couldn’t move fast enough.”
Stalzer confirmed that a couple of county-owned properties in Annandale had been considered but were not suitable, including a site by the Wedgewood apartments, which wasn’t big enough, and a field behind the fire station, which is too close to a childcare center.
Deb Fraser, the Stonegate at Landmark resident spearheading the “Stop the Shelter” campaign, said before Stonegate was built, in the early 2000s, the area was riddled with crime and homeless people. She said Mason District Supervisor Penny Gross’ solution was to have that area rezoned and redeveloped with townhouses.
“It took 10 years to become a community,” Fraser said. Putting a homeless shelter there “is going to absolutely put us back. If Fairfax County is going to change a neighborhood, it should make it better.”
Another resident, Lakecia Stewart, said the review by county officials and upcoming vote by the Planning Commission “all seems like a formality.” The shelter will definitely be relocated to Lincolnia, she said, and it might end up staying their permanently.
Stalzer said the Lincolnia site is too small for a permanent shelter and if that were the county’s intention, it wouldn’t be putting it in a modular structure.
“I understand why they’re concerned,” Stalzer told the Annandale Blog. “The points they’re making definitely have validity.”
|The Southeast Quadrant on Columbia Pike. The office building in the rear would be demolished to make for a county office building.|
Several people at the BC7RC meeting questioned why the county plans to put an office building with human service programs on the Southeast Quadrant – which won’t generate any tax revenue – instead of a privately owned commercial project.
The county needs to provide those services and wants the building located near the people who need them, Stalzer said, and the county is already spending $4.5 million a year to lease space in other buildings.
Most of that leased space is in the Heritage Center on Little River Turnpike in Annandale; moving those programs to Bailey’s Crossroads would leave a lot of vacant office space in Annandale that might be hard to fill.
Stalzer suggested the county could pursue a public/private partnership for the new building, in which the county owns the land, but a private entity owns the building and pays taxes on it. The county is also open to having commercial space on the ground floor.
He estimated the AvalonBay property would have a value of $100 million, which is a significant increase over the existing properties on that site.
“We’re not taking a huge piece of land off the tax rolls,” said Tracy Strunk, deputy director of the Fairfax County Office of Community Revitalization. The county already owns the land where the Bailey’s shelter is currently located.
There were questions about whether the county is overpaying for the Landmark property, as the purchase price, $6.6 million, is more than its assessed value, $4.7 million, listed on the county’s tax records.
Stalzer said $6.6 million is “reasonable, fair, and credible,” as it falls between the commercial appraisals, which ranged from $5.7 million to $7 million. Also, he said, “assessments are typically lower than appraisals.” AvalonBay would cover $250,000 of the $6.6 million cost.
When asked why the Southeast Quadrant redevelopment can’t be put off for a few years until the shelter is permanently located, Strunk said the area needs to be developed now and that the project would encourage more private investment in the area. The county hopes the proposed extension of Seminary Road to Columbia will spur redevelopment along Center Lane.
The land swap calls for Avalon Bay to purchase a property on Columbia Pike owned by the Weissberg Corp. and exchange it for a property on Moncure Avenue of equivalent size owned by Fairfax County.
Fairfax County would purchase the property owned by Landmark Atlantic, demolish the exiting office building on that site, and eventually put up a 200,000-square foot East County Government Center and the extension of Seminary Road through that site.
The contracts have been signed, and the next step is a rezoning of the entire Southeast Quadrant.
Planning for the relocation of the shelter would take place by the end of 2016, Strunk said. The site plan review for the AvalonBay project could be done in late 2016 or 2017, and the existing structures could be demolished in spring 2017. Development of the county building would be further down the road.
That schedule presumed AvalonBay would have submitted a rezoning application by now, but that didn’t happen, so everything could be delayed, she said. Nevertheless, the actual land transfer must occur by July 1, 2017.
“There’s a feeling here that we’re not being treated very well,” said local resident Clyde Miller. Taxpayers are being asked to invest $9.5 million, including the cost for the county building, relocating the shelter, and the added cost for additional students, he said, while the new apartments won’t generate enough tax revenue to cover that.
“Why would the community support this? What’s in it for the community?” Miller said, nothing the residents prefer a “mixed-use village.”
“If this doesn’t work out, we may end up with that,” Stalzer said.