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Friday, April 27, 2012

Planning Commission approves Peace Valley Lane development

The Fairfax County Planning Commission last night approved a proposal to allow a high-density infill development at Peace Valley Lane in the Ravenwood Park neighborhood. The measure now goes to the Board of Supervisors for final action; a date for board action hasn’t been set.

At issue is a proposal to amend the Fairfax County Comprehensive Plan to allow the Concordia Group to proceed with a rezoning application to build seven houses on a 1.89-acre tract in a neighborhood zoned R-3. Ravenwood Park residents have actively opposed the plan amendment for more than a year.

Also at last night’s meeting, the Planning Commission deferred a vote, for the second time, on a proposed re-zoning request to allow the development of 35 detached houses on the Campbell and Ferrara property on Little River Turnpike. That proposal will be taken up on June 14.

Because current residential zoning (R-2) wouldn’t support such a high-density development, the developer, listed as Neighborhoods VI, is proposing the property be given a “planned development housing” zoning designation (PDH-12), which calls for a homeowners association to manage the common areas and stormwater system. Residents of the adjacent Willow Run community oppose the project.

The Mason Land Use Committee, an advisory body that considers rezoning requests, and the Mason District Council of Community Associations, which serves as an umbrella group for neighborhood organizations, oppose both developments.

During the discussion of the Peace Valley Lane proposal, Janet Hall, the commissioner representing the Mason District, acknowledged that many people from Ravenwood Park oppose it. “However, the people who are directly affected by this in the R-3 zoning were in favor of being involved in the development,” she said. “I’ve often said that land use is not a popularity contest. It isn’t how many votes you get on one side versus the other.”

For Hall, a key issue is access. “Everyone agrees that they do not want Peace Valley to go all the way to Route 7 and I support that,” she said. While language prohibiting that road from being extended cannot be incorporated into the plan—that decision would be up to VDOT—Hall said: “What we are proposing is not to open Peace Valley. It can either be developed going north or it can be developed going south. Nothing supports Peace Valley going to Route 7. I want that perfectly clear.”

“One of the things that have been very frustrating for me as a planning commissioner when dealing with this application,” she said, “is the difference between a plan amendment and a rezoning application.” Because this proposal is a plan amendment, “most members of the community are exceedingly frustrated by the fact that they don’t have details” on such issues as stormwater management or setbacks.

If the rezoning application is approved, there could be a maximum of seven units on the property, she said. That would be beneficial because “it would require that the traffic go to Route 7 and not through the community. It would also allow for the community to try to secure the mature trees and the other significant vegetation that is on the site. There is also a requirement that the houses be placed 35 feet from the rear property line.”

And because the property is adjacent to a townhouse community and church parking lot, as well as a single-family neighborhood, Hall said, “the slight increase in density to address the access issue is warranted in this case.”

Local residents fighting infill developments in established neighborhoods are not buying those arguments.

In an April 26 letter to the Planning Commission, Kate Sriwardene, land use chair of the Mason District Council and president of the Wilburdale Civic Association, argues that restricting to access to the new development to Route 7, via a road that passes over private land, would lead to increased traffic on that road, “risking degradation in the value of that land.”

According to Sriwardene, the use of a private road makes it more likely that the developer would seek PDH zoning, because conventional zoning would require access via a public road. The provisions in the amendment that preclude access to the new development via Colmac Road and instead call for access via private road to Leesburg Pike violate language in the Comprehensive Plan stating that “public streets are preferred” and “local streets within the development should be connected with adjacent local streets.” 

Swirdene charges that these “11th hour” changes to the plan amendment, after the public hearings, have been made “because the county is clearly catering to the wishes of an individual developer who stated at the January Mason District Land Use Meeting that he would not develop the land conventionally because it would not be worth it to him financially.”

1 comment:

  1. It is too bad that Janet Hall failed to mention in her remarks at the PC meeting that requiring the access to come from Route 7 prohibits conventional zoning, but rather will force an exception to PDH in the zoning phase. This means that this out of turn amendment is designed specifically for the developer's plans, which is NOT what the Comprehensive Plan is supposed to do...
    Another notch in the bedpost for Penny's backdoor deals with an infill developer!!!!!!
    Thanks for representing us, Penny!