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Thursday, March 28, 2013

Mason Land Use Committee defers action on Peace Valley Lane infill project

The Peace Valley Lane site, with Ravenwood Park houses in the background.

People who live near a proposed infill development on Peace Valley Lane in Seven Corners are cautiously optimistic after a Mason District Land Use Committee (MDLUC) meeting March 26.

Will Collins of the Concordia development company is requesting a 1.89-acre site be rezoned from R-3 to PDH-4 so he can build seven single-family houses there. He told the committee the houses would be 3,300 square feet and would be priced in the high $700,000 to low $800,000 range.

Two MDLUC members voted to recommend the Fairfax County Planning Commission reject the rezoning request, and two members abstained. Because only four of the seven committee members were present, and there wasn’t a quorum, MDLUC Chairman Daniel Aminoff said the committee would not take action on the proposal. He promised to present the committee’s concerns with the proposal to Janet Hall, the Mason District representative on the Planning Commission, before the Planning Commission is scheduled to take it up on April 25.

The section of Peace Valley Lane leading from the development site to Route 7.
Residents of Ravenwood Park and the Vinewood Homeowners Association have bitterly fought the development for the past couple of years. Last May, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved a controversial amendment to the county’s Comprehensive Plan, which cleared the way for the rezoning request.

PDH (planned development housing) zoning allows denser development than traditional residential zoning, but the residents of a PDH community are responsible for maintaining common property, such as a stormwater facility.

The development site is generally at a higher elevation than surrounding land, and Collins told the MDLUC he is addressing community concerns about drainage by providing an infiltration facility that would “more than double” the amount of stormwater retention prescribed by a Fairfax County ordinance.

Ravenwood Park Citizens Association President Carol Turner asked what would happen when the infiltration system stops working. Collins promised to spell out in the HOA documents the requirement that homebuyers will be responsible for maintaining the system, which he said would cost about $1,200 a year.

Vinewood resident Steve Tran expressed doubts about that, noting that Vinewood has 34 units, and “no one cares” about maintaining Vinewood’s stormwater facility.

The Fairfax County planning and zoning staff hasn’t yet published a report on the project, but Billy O’Donnell, the staff member in charge of reviewing the project, said he believes the proposed stormwater system will be adequate.

Another area of concern for residents is the long-term maintenance of a  private road that provide access for the new homeowners to Route 7.  

Steve Dasher, a representative of the Church of Christ, which borders that road, was concerned that the church might have to give up part of its parking lot to make room for fire trucks, but O’Donnell reassured him that that won’t be necessary. Dasher also said it’s likely that each new house would have two or three vehicles, which would create safety problems as cars try to exit Peace Valley Lane onto Route 7.

Ravenwood Park resident Pat Hoar raised concerns about how a new trail through the property would be routed, and O’Donnell agreed to reconsider the plan.

Tran also noted that the county requires the new houses to set back at least 35 feet from existing homes, but the revised plan has a setback of only 30 feet for some of the houses. O’Donnell said that was a necessary compromise in order to save an ancient red oak tree with a 58-inch trunk.  

Kathleen McDermott, a land use attorney, who attended the meeting as a representative of the Mason District Council, said the amendment to the comprehensive plan requires a 35-foot setback and sidewalks on both sides of the street. “That is mandatory. It is not flexible or optional,” she said.

Aminoff agreed that those are outstanding issues and asked O’Donnell to address them in the staff report.

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