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Wednesday, April 20, 2016

County officials defend plans for homeless shelter, county office building



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.

Residents launched a “Stop the Shelter” campaign because of their concerns that a homeless shelter would bring crime and vagrants to their neighborhood.

The shelter relocation is part of a land swap approved by the Board of Supervisors earlier this year that calls for AvalonBay to develop a 375-unit apartment building on Moncure Avenue which would require the shelter to be demolished.  

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.
If the Bailey’s shelter has not been demolished by March 1, 2017, its contract with AvalonBay calls for the county has to pay the company $1,500 a day, so the county needs to move it somewhere by then.

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.

23 comments:

  1. This whole thing is just a bitter pill they are shoving down our throats. There is NOTHING in it for us.

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    1. Constructive replies would be great. Endless whining against developing the current site in Bailey's Crossroads, which at best is a blighted eyesore at the entrance to Mason District from Arlington County, is not productive and is not the path forward toward a better quality of life for the residents of Mason District.

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    2. AvalonBay seems to profit from the less fortunate.
      http://annandaleva.blogspot.com/2013/07/after-sale-of-hillwood-square-residents.html

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  2. Sad to see all of these illegal "Stop the Shelter" signs littering the side of our roadways. Looks like it is the NIMBY's - not the homeless people - who are breaking the laws....

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    1. Thank you for your helpful comment. /s

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    2. Constructive replies would be great. If you'd like to make a complaint about signs, here is the link: http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/code/signs/

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    3. 7 Corners 74/21/16, 8:00 AM

      I was not aware that just because one side of an argument or discussion breaks the law that it immediately means the other side does not.

      I am really neither for nor against the shelter here as the whole area is a clusterfork of failure but to say people planting signs are worse for the community than wards of the state is a little harsh.

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  3. Was Supervisor Gross there?

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  4. To everybody inside the beltway in Annandale,you better get ready for a fight to keep the homeless shelter out of our town! I think its going to happen.

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  5. A few more valid items as well:

    1) There is NO complete & dedicated sidewalk network to the proposed location in Lincolnia, nor is there a great bus network or many bus stops near-by.. ( compared to new sidewalks & multiple bus stops etc. at & near the current Bailey’s site).

    2) It is smart for us & the County to know where the residents go every day ( for job/ life skills training & medical care etc) -- during the daytime hours. As I would suspect that this location is not as convenient as the current site and creates more transportation issues for the residents than it solves.

    3) Unless a permanent location is identified up front (now), I would not advise moving it anywhere as this Lincolnia site will become a de-facto permanent site.

    4) The largest liquor store within miles (Total Wine)is not an ideal neighbor for this use ( literally across the street).

    5) I do agree that the Senior Day Care & Senior Resident population is not an ideal mix with a new & active homeless shelter—just not a good match as far as age, awareness & vigilance of one’s surroundings , orientation & security.

    Can the County go investigate other viable sites ? For instance the entire area around or near the current Bailey’s site :

    1) U-Store Self Storage
    Falls Church, VA
    5829 Seminary Rd. – Center Street –Scoville area
    Falls Church, VA 22041

    Or

    2) The Moose Lodge… 5710 Scoville St, Falls Church, VA 22041--(lots of Land & backs to commercial )

    Or 3) 5815 Seminary Rd, Falls Church, VA 22041 (this site was actually a DMV many years ago).

    Or 4) A series of vacant lots in the 6500 Block of Church St ( one block Off Columbia Pike—directly behind the German Gourmet & literally 1 block from the current Shelter)

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    1. I am wondering why AvalonBay couldn't instead develop the vacant lots behind German Gourmet. That seems like a prime spot for apartments--right next to Trader Joe's, Panera, and Best Buy. I am sure those companies would love it! Those lots together might actually be bigger than the Moncure Ave site. This is looking more and more like the County just wants to get rid of the homeless shelter from Bailey's Crossroads! This is looking more and more like Penny Gross just doesn't want a homeless shelter next to her hoped-for, gleaming new east side government center!

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    2. Additionally, the County could pay AvalonBay to build out the Moncure Ave site with transitional housing facilities for the homeless! That would supplement the current shelter site, improve it dramatically, and bring the facility in-line with current trends in helping the homeless. The homeless need on-site care and long-term, affordable housing, and transitional housing facilities are a proven way to help them. Come on, FFX BOS! You can do better than you are doing with the current proposal. The whole AvalonBay/Landmark Atlantic/FFX County land swap deal has been rushed, ill-conceived, and poorly implemented. Revitalization of the area can and needs to happen, but it can be done much better. Let's slow down and do things right.

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  6. At the first community meeting held on this topic a current Bailey's Crossroads resident spoke out IN FAVOR of keeping the shelter right where it is. In fact, he said that the majority of people in the Bailey's Crossroads area WANT the shelter to remain in Bailey's Crossroads.
    What's really going on here? Why aren't our elected officials listening to us? What deals have been struck and who is really pushing for this since it's certainly not the Lincolnia/Parklawn residents, not the Bailey's residents, not the Lake Barcroft resident... hmmmm.
    It was rather telling how animated and passionate Supervisor Gross became when she raised her voice and stated that existing area is "crappy" and will "remain crappy" if this doesn't happen. Seriously? This is the one and only thing that will improve a not-so-bad-today area? How stupid do they think we are?
    First, the area is not terrible. There are two great shopping centers there. There are plenty of commercial retail opportunities in the area. If the County would focus on transportation improvements and look at improving the area to the north of the Columbia Pike / Rte. 7 intersection, developers would flock to the area. But, putting in more housing to increase density is not going to do a damn thing to make the area 'less crappy."
    So, let's recap. Our ELECTED, PAID, OFFICIALS apparently don't give a damn what we want. They aren't listening to the residents in Bailey's Crossroads that aren't asking to move the shelter, don't want it moved and don't like the Avalon Bay plan. They want a village concept. That sounds reasonable and certainly "less crappy" than what's there now.
    They certainly aren't listening to the Parklawn / Lincolnia residents who are already struggling to MAINTAIN their property values, fight crime and retain appeal in what has been essentially years of neglectful planning for that area. There is a full-fledged Alexandria City West End Redevelopment Plan that will bring amazing change right to the doorstep of the Parklawn / Lincolnia neighborhood in Fairfax County and yet the County has no plan to do squat to improve terrible congestion, "crappy," and outdated retail centers, unsightly storefronts, etc. Basically, the "crappy" part of one part of the Mason District seems to be receiving priority attention over another "not quiet as crappy yet" part of the District.
    Why?
    Why indeed?

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    1. The Bailey's Crossroads civic associations LOUDLY expressed their displeasure at having a shelter OR a county services building in our neighborhood when Supervisor Gross came to our meetings. Just because one person (Most likely with ulterior motives) stated they wanted the shelter to remain where it is does NOT mean they speak for the majority of citizens in that area.

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  7. For those who say "Not in my community".Are there churches in your "community ? And do you attend any of those churches.If you do then you will know that the churches/bible teach to have "compassion" for those less fortunate then yourself.Not in my neighborhood.Anyone can end up homeless.Think not ,talk to someone who has .You are not above homelessness by any means.Just fortunate your not.

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    1. 8:37. Isn't the shelter already in our community -- the current location and proposed location are equadistant from where I live. Isn't arguing for a permanent location instead of the temporary trailers at schools a good thing? I'd also point out that the move is only happening to clear the way for a development.

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    2. Opposition to the proposed shelter location in Lincolnia is NOT about whether to help the homeless! Please understand that. Opposition to the proposed shelter location is about whether it constitutes an appropriate land use, given the surrounding land uses. Homeless shelters like this one cause blight because they attract vagrancy to their vicinity and bring significant real increases in crime. They devastate property values and business revenue because they create the perception that the area is unsafe and infested with vagrancy, trespassing, panhandling, larceny, and drug use. Worse, this proposal would place the shelter immediately adjacent to a Senior Center, which houses 50-plus elderly in assisted living quarters. This would be a horribly inappropriate mix of populations. Placing the shelter at the proposed site is tantamount to placing a polluting industrial facility there. Such facilities do not belong in established residential areas where the frail elderly and families with young children live, shop, and recreate. Help the homeless? Yes! But let's do it appropriately.

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  8. Never understood why homeless people are kicked out of shelters during the day. Why can't they be big enough to have people helping them work there during the day?

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  9. Most people are closer to homelessness than they realize. A job loss, serious illness,or accident can catapult any of us into homelessness. More compassion and less NIMBYism would be a good thing.

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    1. John Thillmann! Is that you? Gotta protect that bonus, plus the gob of cash your company is going to make off this corrupt land swap!

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  10. The shelter can't be put behind the firehouse in Annandale because it's too close to a child care center but it can be next to a center with frail seniors and eliminate a much needed playing field. The fact that the former animal hospital on Seminary Road was up for sale was known for over a year.
    What is most troubling about the current situation is the County's lack of honesty and complete disregard of valid points made by the community.
    The NIMBY label has gotten old and is without merit. If you are anti homeless, you don't advocate for the shelter to stay in the Baileys area which is being done. You aren't against redevelopment if you question building another 375 apartments in an area with over 12 existing complexes within a mile and wonder how another mattress store is an prime example of revitalization.
    You can be only so gullible to believe that paying twice the assessed value for a deteriorating property whose assessment then goes up a million dollars while all adjacent properties goes down is an example of fiscal prudence.
    Give the citizens a break and treat us like intelligent adults.
    Admit that County officials have completely botched this deal.

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  11. Our seniors at the Lincolnia center must be protected. This sex assault happened in early April to a senior in an independent living facility in Centreville.
    http://www.nbcwashington.com/news/local/Arrest-Made-in-Sexual-Assault-of-77-Year-Old-Woman-at-Virginia-Seniors-Complex-375857811.html

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  12. Penny Gross won the election. People voted for her. So no one can be surprised that she continues with her status quo of doing nothing to help the residents of Mason District, and seems to actually do things against their wishes. Better sense would have voted her out. So if you voted for Penny, stop whinging--you got what you asked for. Its the rest of us who are suffering. #mollieloefflerforsupervisor

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