main banner

Monday, February 7, 2011

Conflict over townhouses: Tax base vs. green space

Residents of the Ravenwood Park neighborhood thought they had won a battle against a townhouse development on a vacant property in 2005, but a similar project now seems to be going forward, and the community association is gearing up for another fight.
This 1890s-era house in Ravenwood Park
was demolished in December

Ravenwood Park, a community of 253 single-family homes in the Mason District, is located between Leesburg Pike and Lake Barcroft, close to Seven Corners—and just a short drive from central Annandale.

The property in question is a 1.89-acre plot at 3236 Peace Valley Lane that used to be the site of a farmhouse built in the 1890s.

Although that house was old and offered a glimpse into what this area was like before suburban sprawl, it was not considered “historic” and was torn down by the county in December 2010 after nearby residents requested that it be declared blighted.

It had been abandoned some years before and was occupied by squatters. [The lack of respect for the past is also reflected in the destruction of a dirt fort used during the Civil War nearby. It is now the site of the Barcroft Mews townhouses.]

Carol Turner, co-president of the Ravenwood Park Citizens Association, provides some background: In 2005, developer Will Collins of the Concordia Group tried to get the zoning changed so he could build 14 townhouses. Current zoning restricts development to five single-family houses. The citizens association rose up in opposition, and Collins withdrew his APR (area plan review) nomination requesting higher density.  

Turner at the vacant property
Another developer purchased the land with the intent of building single-family houses, Turner says, but the real estate market crash ended that plan. The developer went bankrupt, a bank repossessed the property, that bank went belly up, and how a subsidiary in Florida owns the land as part of a large purchase of distressed properties all over the country.

Collins has re-entered the picture and has resubmitted plans to build townhouses on the property—this time 12 instead of 14. According to Turner, Collins is “determined to build townhouses and is pulling out all the stops to get it done.” 

“My neighborhood wants to keep the zoning as is,” Turner says. While she prefers having a park on that land, she and her neighbors recognize that it unlikely and development is inevitable. “We believe single-family homes would maintain property values and that townhouses, which are totally inconsistent with our neighborhood, would lower our property values,” she says. 

One of many large
trees cut down
Turner and the homeowners’ whose backyards abut the property met with Mason District Supervisor Penny Gross Feb. 1 to request her support. “I was appalled at her lack of interest in what we were saying,” Turner says, noting that she did not get the impression that Gross would go along with their request to delay a motion to change the zoning. APR nominations are only considered every five years, but Turner suspects Gross might be willing to expedite that process.

Turner also bemoans the fact that just about all the trees on the property were cut down, including some 300-year old oaks, destroying a habitat for foxes, deer, and other wildlife and creating storm runoff and drainage problems that have caused basement flooding in nearby homes.

A meeting is planned Feb. 17 at JEB Stuart High School for residents of nearby communities: Ravenwood Park, Vinewood townhouses, and Lafayette Park Condominium. Residents will have an opportunity to take a survey on their preferences and sign a petition if they oppose the townhouse development.


  1. Vintage Penny, it sure would be nice for a little competition in the Mason District for these political offices. One party rule is NOT good for the Mason District. My experience with local politicians and the school board has been poor at best. At least Tom Davis would come to the pool swim meets and local events, now we have politicians holding town hall meetings at private retirement communities, a great place to not deal with angry voters. Chap Peterson is the only politician in town with the guts to face the entire community, not just the obvious friendlies, and walk away with everyone's respect, three cheers to Senator Peterson. It seems Penny, Vivian, Gerry, Sharon and the rest of the others can't claim that, not by a long shot. They are too busy clamoring for local income taxes, crying poor, and calling tax increases tax cuts, with a straight face to boot. The cowards on the school board put together these sham committees, wasting all of the members time in order to reduce their risk and find others to help shoulder the blame for their unpopular decisions. Oh well, nothing will change without competition and hopefully more men and women from the Peterson mold will come forward.

  2. I agree it is definitely time for penny to go. I wish someone would run against her....anyone.

  3. I agree wholeheartedly. It really is time for a change. It is not good for people to stay in that office so long that they become complacent and expect to be reelected; unfortunately, that is exactly what has happened.

  4. I used to visit this house. What a shame it went into disrepair.