|An illustration of the townhouse development planned for the rear of Heritage Mall. [Madison Homes]|
The Fairfax County Planning Commission is scheduled to hold a public hearing May 25 on an amendment to the county’s Comprehensive Plan to allow the project to go forward. A Board of Supervisors hearing would be June 21.
|The 7-Eleven on Rectory Lane would be demolished.|
The area behind the shopping center, is “mostly underutilized and is an eyesore,” said Elizabeth Baker, a senior land use planner with Walsh, Colucci, Lubeley & Walsh PC. What’s there now is a large parking lot that never fills up, an open grassy area, the remains of a Citgo station that has been demolished, and a 7-Eleven that will be torn down. Webb Cos. will sell that part of the property to Madison Homes.
The comprehensive plan calls for the project to include a “community resource center.” That could be something like a senior center or similar facility and would be incorporated into the existing retail center, Baker said. A small area at the rear of the property, where the service station was, would be set aside for recreation and could have sport court and picnic tables or similar facilities.
The new homes would be about 1,600 to 2,000 square feet. They would sell at market rate prices, which would most likely start in the $400,000s, said Madison Homes Vice President Andrew Rosenberger. The homes would have two-car garages; some would would have garages in the front; others would have them in the rear. Construction could start in early 2018.
Eight of the units will meet Fairfax County’s requirements for affordability, Baker added. Those homes would be smaller and would have one-car garages.
The development will bring several benefits to the community, Baker said. It will attract new investment, and the developers will improve landscaping, pedestrian connectivity, lighting and stormwater management.
|Improvements in the works for Heritage Mall.|
The Webb Cos. also plan to make some improvements to the existing shopping center, said Jon Farmello, the company’s president and chief operating officer. That could include an area for outdoor dining and new paving, seating, and lighting.
He said the company poured about $4 million into improvements over the past few years, including new awnings and walls to screen the utilities at the rear. The area near the Hmart has been renovated, and a new Kumon education center and Simply Prepaid phone store opened there recently, joining Kung Fu Tea, and the Pho Anh Duong restaurant.
Local residents expressed concerns about parking, traffic congestion, pedestrian safety, and stormwater management.
According to Rosenberger, a preliminary traffic analysis found the new development would generate 43 cars per hour during peak hours, while the 200-unit development, which could have been built by right, would have generated 350 cars per hour during peak periods.
That didn’t convince some of the residents, who argued that traffic congestion is heavy during weekends and in the afternoon when Annandale High School lets out. They also argued that parking is insufficient and will result in overflow parking on neighborhood streets.
Farmelo said the plans to improve the retail center will include a reconfiguration of the front parking lot to improve capacity.
Baker said the impact on traffic, schools, and other public facilities will be examined more closely during the comprehensive review process.
According to Cook, there’s some urgency in moving the project forward, at least before July 1, when an anti-proffer bill passed by the General Assembly would take effect – unless the governor vetoes it.
That bill would prevent localities from requiring developers to contribute proffer money for schools, road improvements, and parks. “This project is a classic example of why that bill is a bad thing,” Cook said. It was proposed “because other jurisdictions abused proffers and asked for ridiculous things. The system works in Fairfax. Proffers are critical for our ability to get developers to contribute to things that benefit the community.”