|"Lot 8," the home of Concetta Difalco, whose family opposes the Spectrum development.|
The BoS did, however, unanimously approve the Bailey’s Gateway project, an apartment building with 433 units on Columbia Pike and Carlin Springs Road.
At the March 3 hearing on the Spectrum development, 13 people, most of them residents of the Courtland Park community, urged the supervisors to reject the plan, saying, for the most part, that it would have a detrimental impact on the quality of life in their neighborhood.
Brent Krasner of the Fairfax County Planning and Zoning Department, told the BoS the planning staff recommends the project be denied, primarily because plans for a drive-through pharmacy and the inward-facing entrances on the center’s three buildings don’t conform to the Bailey’s Crossroads comprehensive plan, which calls for an urban, pedestrian friendly streetscape.
Mason Supervisor Penny Gross, however, is an ardent supporter of the project, and it’s extremely unlikely that the other supervisors would vote against it.
Courtland Park resident Irene Xenos has been outspoken in her opposition, mobilizing local residents and organizing a petition drive against it. Since the Planning Commission approved the project on Feb. 12, Xenos has reached out to individual supervisors to present her concerns. As a result, a couple of them raised some pointed questions during the hearing.
Supervisor Jeff McKay (Lee) disputed Spectrum’s contention that CVS won’t participate in the project unless it can have a drive-through. There was a similar conflict with a CVS proposal on Lockheed Boulevard next to Route 1, he said, and that pharmacy was eventually built – without a drive-through.
Supervisor Linda Smyth (Providence) asked why the CVS couldn’t have two doors, including an entrance on Leesburg Pike. The response from Spectrum attorney Barnes Lawson: Two doors would present a security problem, and the center needs to be convenient for drivers because the vast majority of customers will arrive by car.
A proffer dispute
Xenos’ main problem with the Spectrum development is the plan to align the ingress/egress to the shopping center from Washington Drive with the driveway of “lot 8,” the house where her 93-year-old grandmother, Concetta Difalco, lives.
To address that concern, Spectrum had submitted a proffer to provide a landscaping buffer and driveway turnaround on lot 8. Initially, Spectrum called for the Xenos family to do the work and agreed to reimburse them up to $10,000, she explained after the hearing. The Xenos family preferred that Spectrum do the work on their property, and during the Planning Commission hearing, Peter Batten of Spectrum agreed and promised to meet with the Xenos family to discuss the work but never followed up.
During the BoS hearing, Spectrum’s architect briefly showed a picture of the plan for lot 8. “They made it sound like we agreed. We never agreed to any of this. We never even saw it before,” Xenos said later.
She said none of that work would be necessary if only Spectrum would move the entrance to the shopping center, but Spectrum told her that VDOT said it wasn’t possible. A VDOT official, however, told her later that there was no problem moving the entrance.
Nicholas Xenos, a resident of Courtland Park, told the BoS he opposes the project because increased activity would lead to more crime in the neighborhood – and the police aren’t responsive enough to crime in the area now. Jamal Bunyas, a resident of Washington Drive said the shopping center plans call for dumpsters to be located next to his father’s bedroom and that Spectrum failed to move them or provide a fence.
24-hour fast food
Other residents who spoke at the hearing against the project cited traffic congestion, big delivery trucks on neighborhood streets, 24-hour fast food restaurants, insufficient buffer zones, pedestrian safety concerns, and declining property values.
Dionysios “Denny” Xenos, Irene’s brother, called it “an all-out assault by a commercial entity on our residential neighborhood.” Nicholas Ferk, whose home on Charles Street would border the shopping center, said, “I don’t want a hamburger joint next door.”
The Fairfax County Transportation Department is requiring the project to include a realignment of Charles Street and Glen Forest Drive, and the county’s planning staff says Spectrum’s plan for doing that unworkable.
Adrian Dominguez, the owner of the Glen Forrest Shopping Center and Glen Forest Annex on Leesburg Pike, told the supervisors she supports the development but opposes the road realignment because it could result in the loss of about 28 parking spaces at her shopping centers.
The neighbors knew the CVS would be open 24 hours a day but were concerned about the restaurants. Spectrum kept saying the times hadn’t been set, Irene said, but Courtland Park resident Gwen Doddy Lowit found a “statement of justification” in the documents stating “the anticipated hours of operation of the fast food restaurant(s) will be 24 hours,” and they would serve an average 300 customers per day.
The only tenant so far, other than CVS, is Smashburger, although there is room for up to five other tenants. Spectrum has insisted that the restaurants would be “fast casual,” such as Smashburger and Chipotle, and not “fast food.” But there’s no distinction between those types of restaurants in the zoning code, so there’s no guarantee that there wouldn’t be a Burger King or McDonald’s in a few years.
Lowit also told the BoS she is concerned about the drive-through at the CVS, and noted that Janet Hall, the former planning commissioner representing Mason District, tried to get CVS to eliminate the drive-through. When Lowit contacted CVS herself, she said, “they wanted to work with the community and would do what the county wanted.” Later she received a phone call from Batten telling her it was “inappropriate” to contact CVS.
When Batten was given a chance for a rebuttal at the hearing, he claimed the Xenos family was trying to get more money and the discussions were not productive – and that’s why he stopped meeting with them. He also said having a shopping center in the neighborhood would be safer than a dark, vacant lot.
Developer vs. community
Gross put forth the motion to defer a decision (to March 24, 3:30 p.m.) “to give us some more time to answer some of those questions.” She said redevelopment of the site has been under discussion for many years, and the current proposal is a big improvement, although she acknowledged, “it’s not perfect.”
According to Gross, the site used to have an abandoned house, had been subjected to a zoning violation for the storage of trucks, and, at one point, homeless people living on the property started a fire that burned down a garage, killing two people.
While Gross said she’s received a lot of emails from residents opposing the project, the Glen Forest Community Association and the pastor of Culmore Methodist Church support it. It should also be noted that the Mason District Land Use Committee voted against it.
Irene and Denny later told the Annandale Blog they believe Gross is on the side of the developer, rather than the community.
Irene said she asked for a private meeting with Gross numerous times, but “she refused to meet with us without the developers present.” When the meeting was finally held, which included about a dozen residents, Irene said Gross told them, “If you’re here to oppose this project, you’re wasting my time and yours.”
“Penny is not my representative; she is an agent of Spectrum. She completely sold out to them,” Denny said. “They know they’re screwing us. They just want us to go away. They’re being allowed to bully the whole neighborhood.”
When they talked to other supervisors, “they told us we have a compelling case but it’s unprecedented to go against a supervisor” when the project is in their district, he said. “We understand that. We feel like we’ve been left in open waters with the sharks, the way Penny Gross is treating us.”