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Thursday, February 23, 2012

Planning Commission considers Willow Run project tonight

The Campbell and Ferrara nursery is slated for townhouse development
It’s time to take a stand against out-of-control development that seems to be destroying every bit of open space left in Annandale. An improving housing market means more pressure by developers to convert every square inch of land to high-density housing, leading to ever more congested roads and overcrowded schools. If community associations and individual residents fail to fight these proposals, we can expect even more of these projects.

Annandale residents who want to preserve the character of well-established neighborhoods need to let our elected leaders know why it’s important to maintain our quality of life.

Opponents of a proposed housing development on the Campbell and Ferrara property on Little River Turnpike will be making their case at a public hearing before the Fairfax County Planning Commission tonight.

The Mason District Council (MDC) of Community Associations is urging the commission to oppose a rezoning request that would allow Stanley Martin Homes to squeeze 35 town houses into the back lot of the Campbell and Ferrera plant nursery at Little River Turnpike and Willow Run Drive. The proposal calls for the property to be zoned under the planned housing development (PDH) category, which allows more density than under conventional residential zoning.

Several residents of the Willow Run neighborhood, including civic association President Jack Haberle, spoke out against the development at a meeting of the Mason District Land Use Committee last month.

MDC Land Use Chair Kate Sriwardene sent a letter to the planning commission urging it to reject the rezoning request for several reasons:
  • The density of the proposed project is too great and it does not conform to the character of the surrounding neighborhood. The developer even admitted that not enough parking spaces would be provided and is proposing covenants to require homeowners to use their garages for cars and not for storage. “This fact alone illustrates that there are far too many houses on this parcel,” Sriwardene says.
  • The increase in traffic will change the character of the neighborhood, and suggested traffic calming methods will not significantly mitigate the dramatic increase in cut-through traffic, speeding, and noise.
  • Stormwater concerns have not been adequately addressed, especially considering the poor condition of the soil and the drastic increase in impermeable space. Sriwardene calls it “outrageous” that under the PDH zoning classification, the stormwater facilities would be maintained by the homeowners association rather than the county.
  • PDH is not a desirable zoning designation for residential areas in the Mason District. An increase number of developers seem to be seeking PDH zoning, which was designed for “innovative” land use designs, to squeeze more units into small properties - and maximize their profits.
A growing number of residents and community groups are taking action against infill development. A community forum sponsored by MDC last month on this topic drew a huge crowd. And in December, the Fairfax County Federation of Citizens Associations passed a resolution urging the Board of Supervisors to deny requests to rezone properties from residential to PDH zoning categories for infill projects.


  1. It is truly unbelievable that the developer of this proposed project can be straight faced in offering the proposed design of 35 houses, 10-15 feet apart, plopped into the middle of an established neighborhood that is zoned 2 houses per acre-R-2.

    The proposed development is totally inconsistent with anything in that area. Unfortunately, when this project was first presented to the residents it was offered as an Amendment to the Comprehensive Plan to allow for more density. Some of the neighbors, who were not opposed to development, were bamboozled into thinking that if they voted to allow the PDH (Planned Development Housing) they would get a development that is innovative with open spaces and other amenities that would be worthwhile and would enhance their neighborhood.

    Instead when the developer came back with his design, the developer offered as many large houses as possible squeezed together 10 to 15 feet apart. This is totally different and in no way consistent with the established community. In this planned development the way to drive in and out of the development is through one exit—talk about a backup to get out of the PDH, much less getting on the public road. The stormwater drain for all the houses is placed at the very end of the 35 houses. Stormwater in that area is rated as the worse in the district. Another enhancement offered was one over-sized tree placed in the houses’ small front yard that would threaten the houses once it matured.

    What is happening in Mason District? Every meeting attended or watched at the Planning Commission stage of development has had these outrageous proposed PDH developments threatening established communities has come from Mason District only. All the other districts present PDH developments in areas that do not threaten older neighborhoods.
    Citizens of Mason District need to become aware that this is happening and if there is a piece of open space in your neighborhood, you need to be very aware and vigilant to make sure that developers are not behind the scenes negotiating with government officials to get the most density out of that property!!!!

    Why aren’t our government officials looking at how to make our commercial districts more attractive and pedestrian friendly? They can offer developers incentives.

  2. The commercial districts should be the priority for development and upgrade. However, not much has been done except for the increase of day laborers. What boggles my mind is why the same government officials get re-elected.

  3. More than 30 members of the Willow Run community attended the Planning Commission meeting and many of them stayed until the bitter end, even though the meeting ran beyond 2 a.m., reports Jack Haberle, president of the Willow Run Civic Association.

    The commission voted defer a decision, and the developer is expected to bring a revised proposal to the next Mason District Land Use Committee meeting.

    The commissions had clearly done their homework, Haberle says. "They considered our neighborhood concerns with equal care. They asked useful questions and made insightful comments."