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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Single-family houses recommended for Peace Valley Lane property

About 80 people, most of them from Ravenwood Park, packed into a meeting of the Mason District Land Use Committee Tuesday evening to make sure their concerns are taken into account as the county considers plans for an undeveloped 1.89-acre property in their neighborhood.

The Ravenwood Park Civic Association’s campaign against a proposed townhouse development on that property, at 3236 Peace Valley Lane, Falls Church, apparently paid off. Clara Johnson, a planner with the Fairfax County Department of Planning and Zoning, said at the meeting that the planning staff will recommend that the zoning for that parcel remain at R-3, which allows no more than three single-family homes per acre. She said her staff review will consider four or five single-family homes and will not consider townhouses for that property.

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors had earlier agreed to address that property in an amendment to the county’s Comprehensive Plan, which serves as a guide for future development, and asked the planning staff to submit a recommendation.

Johnson said the staff will get input from transportation and environmental planners and other county departments before submitting a recommendation to the Planning Commission. The commission then will hold hearings and submit its recommendation to the Board of Supervisors, which will vote on amending the comprehensive plan—or could decide not to change it.

Carol Turner, the co-president of Ravenwood Park, said all the neighborhoods surrounding the Peace Valley property—the Lafayette Park and Vinewood townhouses, as well as Ravenwood Park—oppose higher-density development there. The main concerns are the impact on traffic and their desire to maintain the character of the existing neighborhood.

Several people at the meeting questioned why the Board of Supervisors should even consider an amendment to the Comprehensive Plan. As Ravenwood Park resident Brad Moss put it, “Why are we going through this process and why do we have a supervisor [Penny Gross] pushing this forward on behalf of a developer?” The developer, Will Collins of the Concordia Group, put forth a similar proposal in 2005, which he later withdrew.

“We are not anti-development,” another resident said. “We are confused why we even have to go through this.”

“This is kind of a unique situation,” said Roy Lounsbury, the chair of the Mason District Land Use Committee. The board “decided this property needs to be looked at. The goal is not to rezone or to invite in any particular developer.” An old house there had been declared blighted and was torn down in December.

Lounsbury said the purpose of last night’s meeting is to explain the process. The committee will meet again to hear community members’ views.

Janet Hall, the Mason District representative on the Planning Commission, urged community members to think about what language they want to see in the Comprehensive Plan. “We want you involved. This is the beginning of the process,” she said. “The bottom line is this is where you get to put in your two cents.”

She suggested that the Ravenwood Park community might want to push for language in the plan affirming the need to save trees or provide buffers between single-family and higher-density housing. 

Ravenwood Park board member Mark Doehnert noted that the Comprehensive Plan already says residential neighborhoods should be “protected from the negative elements of growth and development.”

But Lounsbury said the plan doesn’t specifically mention Ravenwood Park, as that neighborhood predates the development of the plan. He urged community members to take advantage of this opportunity to amend the plan to add language about preserving the residential character of their neighborhood. “The Board of Supervisors opened a can of worms. Let them close it,” he said.

The committee considered several other items, including a proposal by Bill Page Plaza to expand its Honda dealership on Arlington Boulevard and redevelop the nearby shopping center it owns on Annandale Road. The plans include two stand-alone drive-through buildings—a pharmacy and a bank. Shane Murphy, an attorney representing Bill Page, said he hopes the Post Office will stay but noted that the U.S. Postal Service has a budget deficit and is closing many local branches around the nation.

Several representatives of nearby communities said they support the project and hope the new retail center will be an improvement over what’s there now. One Westlawn resident suggested a walkway be added along the back of the property along Tripps Run.

The Fairfax County Planning Commission is expected to take up the proposal in July or August. Murphy said he hopes construction will start in the first or second quarter of 2012.

The committee also reviewed a request for a special exception to allow an expansion of Hillbrook Automotive, at 6701 Little River Turnpike, at the Old Columbia Pike intersection. The proprietor, a Mr. Choi, wants to put in additional service bays.

A representative of Mr. Choi said several concerns raised at previous land use committee meetings would be addressed. A six-foot wall would be installed to shield the business from a neighbor. Barricades, no-parking signs, and towing would be implemented to prevent large numbers of cars from being left on the property overnight. Stephen Smith, a committee member, said he counted as many as 40 cars in the lot, including six with no license plates. The Fairfax County Planning Commission will hold a public hearing on the request June 2.

It wasn’t addressed at the meeting, but there is a plan to develop a five-story medical building across Old Columbia Pike (on the same side of Little River as Hillbrook Automotive) on the spot occuped by Pro Computer and a small garden shop.


  1. Thank you Annandale Blog for covering so well the April 26 Land Use Task Force meeting!

    The 3236 Peace Valley Lane property issue is not only important to the Ravenwood Park and surrounding communities, but for all Mason District residents, because communities need to know that they can make a difference by voicing their opinions when decisions are being made about their own communities. So often we/I think our government officials are looking out for our best interests only to find out later, when it’s already been decided, that's not the case. Although this is a long arduous task--having to constantly monitor the issue and show up for the meetings--after attending the Land Task Force Meeting this week, my community feels more confident that we are actually being heard and taken into consideration by our fellow residents who make up the Mason District Land Use Task Force Committee and by the County’s Planning and Zoning Department. To be continued…
    Ravenwood Park resident

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