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Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Local residents raise concerns about townhouse proposal for Gallows Road

This wooded area in Annandale, seen from Libeau Lane, could be the site of a new townhouse development. 
People who live near a proposed townhouse development on Gallows Road in Annandale raised concerns about traffic congestion, school capacity, parking, and quality of life at a community meeting April 17.

The Christopher Companies, a real estate developer based in Oakton, has proposed building 66 townhouses on a 9.5-acre, heavily wooded, triangular area between Gallows Road, Libeau Lane, and the Raintree townhouse community.

At the request of Mason Supervisor Penny Gross, the Board of Supervisors authorized the Fairfax County Planning Commission to consider an amendment to the Comprehensive Plan that would change the concept for land use on the property to allow for higher density. It would increase the allowable use from two housing units per acre to as many as eight. A rezoning proposal has also been submitted.

There are 11 single-family homes in the affected area. The Christopher Companies have approached the homeowners about selling. All have agreed, except for the owner of the house at 3412 Gallows Road.

The sales would be contingent on approval of the Comprehensive Plan amendment and rezoning applications by the Board of Supervisors, said E. John Regan Jr., executive vice president of The Christopher Companies.

There will be another presentation on the proposed plan amendment at the Mason District Land Use Committee meeting April 25, 7 p.m., at the Mason Government Center. The proposal will also be on the agenda of the MDLUC’s May 23 meeting.

A report by the Department of Planning and Zoning staff is expected to be released May 18. The Planning Commission will have a public hearing on the plan amendment June 15, and the Board of Supervisors is expected to have a hearing on July 25.

A resident of Wendy Ridge Lane said he was worried that more development would lead to worse traffic congestion. Trying to make a left turn onto Gallows Road from Aston Street in the morning is already “a nightmare,” he said. People often have to wait for five or 10 minutes.

A resident with a daughter in a trailer at Woodburn Elementary School said the townhouses would attract families with young children, which would make the school even more overcrowded.

Someone else raised concerns about overflow parking, noting that Raintree residents already park on neighborhood streets. A woman who lives on Trammel Road warned that a new development could result in cut-through traffic through neighborhood streets.

A Raintree resident said he bought his home because of the wooded area nearby and urged the county to protect the woods. Another Raintree resident suggested using the land for a park and recreation rather than more townhouses. Someone else worried about what would happen to the deer and other animals who live in the woods.

“Just because an area is available for development doesn’t mean it’s right or reasonable to develop it,” a resident said. “Every piece of land shouldn’t be developed.”

A resident of Holmes Run Acres called the proposal “a poor precedent for density in this area.” Leave the density at R-2 or go up to R-3, she suggested. When many trees were cut down to expand the beltway and add express lanes, her neighborhood experienced more noise, dirt, and water runoff, and there now are long traffic backups on Gallows Road during the morning rush.

Losing one of the last remaining patches of woods diminishes the quality of life, she said. “This will be the nail in the coffin” that will threaten the stability and safety of the neighborhood.

Gross warned the audience that under a state law enacted last year, county staff can’t discuss proffers. The county can talk about the impacts of a project, but not how to solve any potential problems – such as traffic congestion or school overcrowding. “Even suggestions of proffers at a meeting like this subjects the county to legal liability,” she said.

Several people asked whether the townhouse project is a done deal and how the county will decide whether it should go forward.

Mike Van Atta of the Planning and Zoning Department said the staff will consider such issues as land use compatibility and how the proposal relates to adjacent neighborhoods, among other issues. Other county agencies will submit comments on how the development will affect traffic, access, school capacity, storm water, and the tree cover. More detailed analyses would occur during the rezoning process.

There’s a possibility that the staff could say the density should be less than what is proposed, which would allow single-family homes but not townhouses, Van Atta said. There have been instances in the past where the staff has recommended denial, and the proposal for a plan amendment was withdrawn, he noted.

“This is not a fait accompli,” Gross said. The Board of Supervisors authorized a study of the proposal; it didn’t direct the staff or Planning Commission to approve it.

The current landowners could cut down all the trees if they want to, as the area was developed before existing regulations – on things like storm water and tree preservation – were approved. Some of the houses were built in the 1940s and some have septic tanks.

Owners have the right to sell their properties, Gross said. “At what point do we say the doors are closed and no one else is allowed in? That is the challenge.” 

10 comments:

  1. People will express concerns, mostly valid, at meetings. The county will hem and haw back and forth, “consider” those concerns, but ultimately, this will be approved. Lather, rinse, repeat. This is what always happens, and is the only thing Penny knows how to do - Work with two-bit developers and approve small, awkward, invasive infill projects that no one wants.

    This particular one is egregious, though. I’d be absolutely, totally livid if I lived in any of the surrounding homes. The access to the proposed site is horrid, and Gallows Road at that stretch is a more or less a congested superhighway at this point.

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  2. This area is so congested already and they want to add upwards of 66 townhouses? Are they crazy?? It seems like some people will not be happy until every last tree is gone. I can't be the only person who wouldn't mind a little land with my house but developers are so greedy. They want to shove as many houses on as little land as possible. I'm curious as to what the homeowners are being paid for their homes.

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    1. Trees don't pay taxes.

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  3. Look on the bright side, it should provide some much needed socio-economic diversity to Woodburn, Jackson and Falls Church... no help for Annandale High that was segregated by the school board, and really Tessie Wilson, in 2011.

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  4. People make an appointment to meet with Van Atta, Zoning and Planning, and demand that they listen to your concerns. Unless you do this the county will steam roll it through. The area should be single-family houses. That's plenty of money for owners and developer. Now is the time to put your foot down. Sure Penny had a community meeting but she is moving quickly through the MDLUC, Planning Commission, and BoS meetings. Who cares if the county can't ask for Proffers, residents can go to the developer and demand concessions for the single-family houses for schools, roads, parks, etc. We don't need the county anymore they are not looking out for the residents. You can stop the townhouses now but if you wait for the County Staff report and the rezoning application, it is too late for you all. This proposed townhouse development is not compatible with what is there now.

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  5. I researched and found out a lot that wasn't told at the meeting. Christopher Land didn’t approach the homeowners. After over 2 years of research (they had bigger developers making offers), the homeowners chose them and it had a lot to do with what they had to offer for the community. Trees and old ways won’t may never be upgraded without rezoning. These old big trees are dangerous, one fell across Gallows and another across a driveway, fortunately they didn’t hit someone like the one that fell across Hummor and killed someone, let's not wait for that to happen again (I guess when the road was widened in the 70s the root growth wasn’t taken into consideration and they are falling). They plan on having a privacy wall of trees around the entire community plus trees throughout, keeping more vegetation than required, which is great for the environment and neighboring communities. This is probably the only chance we have to help with congestion. Hopefully a much-needed traffic light will be installed and drastically help (I've always wanted to petition for one). They want to help the schools, help teachers, fire fighters, and police officers to be able to live and work right here where we need them most. Bring more taxes to support our schools, etc. Without rezoning how is this going to happen? McMansions won’t do this (count the trees at the newer homes on the property, look at the 3 next to Woodburn). Leave it as it is and all the trees could be torn down and septic tanks, wells and other things remain. It seems Christopher Land wants to clean up the environment. When RainTree was built in the 70s most people had 1-car, the average went up. They are building for 4 cars on each property plus visitor parking in the common areas. It may not get rezoned for 8, but I hope it is rezoned for enough that we can get all the perks we need and want. No community will help the traffic congestion and may make it worse, unless there is rezoning that is high enough for us to get all our perks we’re SOL, I think this is our only chance. Talk to John, that’s what I did, do your research. Learn, give him your input, he listens. Don’t knock it until you know all the facts, this blog left a lot out. I would be less afraid of what they want to do for us, and more afraid of what someone else doesn’t want to do for us.

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    Replies
    1. Sucker.

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    2. Trees are dangerous!!!

      Gosh, you sound old and out of touch. There's plenty of senior housing to suit your needs in Mason District. Look for a community without a single tree nearby!

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  6. Here we have a perfect example of how Fairfax County "leadership" is destroying the quality of life for the Citizens of Fairfax County. If Virginia were smart like Maryland, we would have ordinances that prevent people from chopping down trees willy-nilly. Yes, trees don't pay taxes, but they do replenish the supply of oxygen to the atmosphere. Liberals have no right to complain about the de-forestation of the Amazon rain forest when we have this kind of thing happening right in our own back yard.

    The irony of this is that Penny Gross is from Oregon, a state that values stewardship of the environment and takes a balanced approach to development. She should know better. My fear for Penny is she has sold her soul to the laizzez-faire economic philosophy and now worships at the altar of "by-right" development.

    SO people, just stop it! Demand greater controls on the development and stop the destruction of the community. And stop chopping down your own trees -- you have been over-sold by desperate "arborists" and tree "service" companies who can't find any better kind of work to do.

    And one last thing: To whoever lives at 3412 Gallows Road -- STAND FIRM -- DON'T SELL OUT!

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  7. This really sets an awful precedent. If 11 people in my single family home neighborhood want to band together and sell their homes to a developer, I have to put up with a townhouse complex next to my home, just because? No, no thanks.

    Anyone in a neighborhood with more than a few older homes should be worried about the precedent set by this.

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