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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Mason land use committee defers action on infill developments

The Campbell and Ferrera nursery, which is slated for a housing development
More than a hundred people packed a meeting of the Mason District Land Use Committee (MDLUC) Jan. 24 to opposes infill development projects on Peace Valley Lane and the Campbell and Ferrara property in Annandale.

The issues involved are so complicated, the committee agreed to defer a decision on whether to recommend those projects be approved by the Fairfax County Planning Commission. “We’re not prepared to make a decision tonight,” said MDLUC chair Roy Lounsbury.

The proposed development at Peace Valley Lane, in the Ravenwood Park neighborhood will be discussed at a Planning Commission hearing Feb. 4, but MDLUC member Janet Hall, who also is on the Planning Commission, said she will ask the commission to defer a decision.

The proposed Campbell and Ferrera development will be heard by the Planning Commission Feb. 23, but Hall will also urge the commission to delay a decision on that project. Both proposals will be taken up again at the next meeting of the MDLUC on Feb. 28.

At last night’s meeting, attorney Greg Riegle described developer Stanley Martin Homes’ plan to build 35 single-family houses on 8.79 acres of land owned by the Campbell and Ferrera plant nursery on Little River Turnpike. The developer is requesting the property be rezoned PDH-4, which would allow a planned unit development with four houses per acre.

Jack Haberle, president of the Willow Run Civic Association, said residents are concerned that the project would degrade the character of the neighborhood, the increased traffic would threaten public safety, and there would be inadequate stormwater management.

Speaking as an individual, Haberle said PDH zoning is supposed to encourage creativity, but “this proposal has nothing new.” It calls for “the greatest number of allowable cookie-cutter mcmansions on the smallest allowable lots. The new houses are way too big, and there are way too many of them.”

He complained that at the last MDLUC meeting, it was mentioned that there was no opposition to the project because no one from the community was at the meeting. Community residents didn’t come to the meeting because they weren’t informed about it, he said. “That is reason enough for the MDLUC to reject the rezoning request.”

The only access to the development would be off Willow Run Drive, and several people who live on that road told the MDLUC the increased traffic would make it hard for people to get out of their driveways.

Other people charged the proposed visitor parking would be inadequate. Each house would have a two-car garage and two parking spaces, Reigle said, and there would be 28 parking spaces for visitors.

Higher-density development “causes more problems in the long run than benefits,” Haberle said, noting that the increased tax revenue doesn’t offset the problems caused by greater traffic congestion, overcrowded schools, and overused stormwater infrastructure.

The Peace Valley Lane proposal calls for up to eight single-family houses on a 1.89-acre property in the Ravenwood Park neighborhood.

The Ravenwood Park Civic Association (RPCA) has raised a number of objections: Increased density would destabilize an established neighborhood. The county’s approval of an “out-of-turn” amendment to the Comprehensive Plan was inappropriate. And failure to require enhanced stormwater systems would cause massive runoff.

The developer, Will Collins of the Concordia Group, and staff from the county planning department said they oppose a cut-through on Peace Valley Lane (that would connect the neighborhood to Route 7), but representatives of the RPCA complained that there are no assurances that this won’t happen.

Hall and Clara Johnson of the planning department told residents that they might be better off if the property were rezoned for higher density than if it were developed “by right” under the zoning category already approved. If the land were rezoned, the community would have an opportunity to negotiate for improvements, such as a wider buffer from existing homes, more trees, a more effective stormwater system, and changes to the plan design.

But if Collins puts in five houses, which is allowed under current zoning, the community would not have any influence on the development, Hall said. “He has to satisfy ordinances on setbacks but Fairfax County can’t prohibit him from cutting down trees,” she said. “If it is rezoned, the neighborhood can have input. You may want to consider trading density for some control in the plan design process.”

Community members weren’t convinced. RPCA Co-president Carol Turner and other residents urged the committee to recommend a less-dense, by right project that would still allow the community to have some influence. Collins, however, said he is not considering a by right redesign because of the site development cost.

Kathleen McDermott, an attorney who has been fighting an infill development next to the Wilburdale community, said the only way to fit eight houses on such a small lot is through PDH zoning. Hall suggested that wouldn’t be possible without another comprehensive plan amendment.

The main objection to the project is the issue of compatibility, McDermott said. Putting huge houses into a well-established community goes against language in the Comprehensive Plan, which has the stated objectives of maintaining the character and stability of well-established  neighborhoods.


  1. Enough Already! Stop the McMansions and the over development of Annandale.

  2. Exactly. Why would we ever want to upgrade any of the housing in Annandale? It's perfect the way it is!

  3. They should focus on upgrading the commercial areas

  4. Like Bloom which is going out of business? Maybe if we had more McMansions and the like they wouldn't have to close that site after 12 months in the area. Note, they aren't even replacing it with a Food Lion as they are in 98% of their other locations. Just closing up entirely, i.e saying Annandale can't support another Food Store. Sure makes other businesses want to "upgrade" their Annandale facilities.

  5. The county needs to focus on the commercial areas of Annandale and let individual homeowners fix their homes within the exisiting zoning requirements. Done.

  6. Not having a pharmacy really put Bloom at a disadvantage, I can think of 5 other places in Annandale (Kmart 2 CVS, Safeway, and Giant) that all have them. Its smaller selection hurt them as well, like with their deli and seafood section. They had the best prices and a good beer selection which is what I will miss.

  7. Therein lies your problem. The County does not or should not fix up the commercial areas. The owners should and do. It should not be a government enterprise. If the area merits it based on the strength and quality of their residential neighborhoods, the private businesses will fall over themselves to "fix up" their areas. But when entire neighborhoods and community associations fight "upgrades" to the area, it creates s a domino effect and then you have to beg the government to step in.....spending our tax dollars to do what private industry would have done for free if you had only allowed them to do so. There is nothing wrong with "infill" when properly done. It adds value to all of the surrounding homes and neighborhoods. Done!

  8. looking at the big picture, I prefer infill to sprawl, with more and suburbs reaching further south or west.

  9. maybe better not to bother with a few mcmansions as infill - wait till we can get MAJOR reinvestment in the commercial center - not fixing up stores, but at least one big multi use project - and then get better transit - then someday the empty lots will go for serious density.