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Thursday, January 10, 2019

Planning Commission delays decision on Gallows Road development

The site proposed for Woodburn Manor, as seen from Libeau Lane. 
The Fairfax County Planning Commission delayed a decision until Jan. 30 on an application for a special exception from Christopher Land to develop a large age-restricted community on Gallows Road.

The proposed Woodburn Manor project would consist of 72 housing units, including 12 single-family detached houses, 12 townhouses, and 48 units in a five-story multifamily building. Each unit would have to include at least one resident who is 55 or older.
Libeau Lane would no longer exist if Woodburn Manor is built. 
Of the 22 people who spoke at the Planning Commission hearing on Jan. 9, 16 urged the commission to recommend denial.

During the hearing, commissioners raised questions about these issues:
  • The impact on traffic along already-congested Gallows Road. 
  • The impact of the development on surrounding single-family neighborhoods. 
  • Whether the proposed stormwater controls would be sufficient to prevent flooding in the adjacent Raintree community.
  • Whether the HOA created for Woodburn Manor would be sufficiently funded to maintain the stormwater system and other costly needs. 
  • With only one access point to the community – on Gallows Road – wouldn’t residents have difficulty turning left onto Gallows? (That drew laughter from the audience.) 
  • Whether some residents who are 55 or younger would have school-age children, straining capacity at Woodburn Elementary.  
  • The impact on safety as elderly residents try to walk across Gallows Road to catch a bus. 
“This will create instability,” said Commissioner Phillip Niedzielski-Eichner (Providence). “This is not in harmony with the Comprehensive Plan.”

One of the objectives of the Comprehensive Plan calls for Fairfax County to “encourage a land use pattern that protects, enhances, and/or maintains stability in established residential neighborhoods.”

Because the application is seeking a special exception, not a rezoning, the project needs to be “in harmony” with the Comprehensive Plan, said Kelly Atkinson of the Planning and Zoning Department. It doesn’t need to be in “substantial conformance” with the Comprehensive Plan,

Despite the 55+ restriction, John Regan Jr., executive vice president and chief financial officer of Christopher Land, said most residents would be in the 65 to 75-age range and would be doing less driving. A shuttle system would be considered, and a concierge would arrange ride-sharing trips.

Commissioner Julie Strandlie (Mason) raised a concern that residents could use their homes for short-term rentals, especially the larger units with four bedrooms. Regan said that could be prohibited in the HOA rules.

The Mason District Land Use Committee voted in November to urge the Planning Commission to not endorse Woodburn Manor, while residents of Holmes Run Acres and other nearby communities have actively campaigned against the project.

Some of the houses on Libeau Lane that would be demolished if Woodburn Manor is built. 
At the Planning Commission hearing, civic association leaders and residents of nearby communities argued against Woodburn Manor, citing many of the reasons brought up at previous meetings, such as increased traffic on Gallows Road and side streets, loss of trees and green space, pedestrian safety, too much density for an area with single-family homes, and lack of adequate stormwater controls. 

Gerry Andrianopoulos, a member of the Raintree HOA board, told the commissioners there is flooding in basements and the parking lot during heavy rains and the addition of more paved surfaces will exacerbate the problem.

Gallows Road resident Rames Rubio, the only homeowner who refused to sell his property to Christopher Land, said he is concerned that increased traffic would lead to more accidents and that the value of his property would decline.

Holmes Run Acres is already “the ultimate aging-friendly community,” said civic association president Edith MacArthur. She warned Woodburn Manor would set a precedent for more high-density development and could be “the tipping point leading to the unraveling of stability of my neighborhood.”

Speaking on behalf of the Mason District Council, Carol Turner said the project doesn’t meet the definition of an independent living facility because it doesn’t provide services for residents.

Clyde Miller, speaking on behalf of Holmes Run Valley Citizens Association, charged the developer is proposing an age-restricted community disguised as an independent living community solely to gain approval of a special exception, so they won’t have to go through a more difficult rezoning process.

Among those who testified in support of the project were several people who own property on Gallows Road or Libeau Lane who would be bought out by Christopher Land or expressed a desire to live in Woodburn Manor.


  1. Nice idea, wrong location1/11/19, 12:31 AM

    One of the speakers, who only identified herself by name, address, and business entity, is actually a landowner of 2 of the lots in this proposed development. This individual spoke in favor of the project on the basis of need for +55 housing. She also claimed no issues turning Left during rush hour on four separate occasions yesterday. Interesting this individual did not disclose the relationship with the project. This family has much to gain if the project is approved.

  2. I wish she would reach out to the Northern Virginia Conservation Trust. They might be able to get her and the community a much better deal by conserving this site. There are advantages for her without spoiling the area for everyone else.

  3. Simply put, this development goes against multiple principles laid out in the Fairfax County Comprehensive Plan. If the developer really cared about creating a 55+ community, they would have done so two years ago. Instead, they put "lip stick on the pig" of their previous (very similar plan) and found a legal loophole by slapping an aging facility label on it. This is clearly about profits. I found it interesting that 90% of the speakers in favor were either all property owners who the developer was buying out, or others who would personally gain from this (including his realtor!?!). Even then, those speakers were a small minority. The meeting was dominated by those of us who live, and plan to continue living, in the neighborood and care about its future. We'd also like to set a precedent for what smart development means (ie, Mosaic, Braddock Road, etc) and protect stable neighborhoods for families.

  4. Aside from the hype on the part of the developer (one resident 55 years or older in each unit) that this will be a SENIOR development, there is no means of determining who will actually live there, who will maintain oversight and what, if any, penalties will be imposed for non-conformance. Referring to HOA regulations as a mechanism of enforcement is ingenuous at best.

    While there is a genuine need for legitimate senior housing, this development doesn't meet the criteria and is simply a means of bypassing the necessary process and attempting to make an inappropriate proposal acceptable.

    Shame on them!

  5. One of the things I would be most concerned about is whether there will be a burger joint nearby. I really love hamburgers, cheeseburgers, and really anything like that. I am concerned that if they build this they will not factor in the ability of residents to get a tasty burger at Wendy's, Elevation Burger, McDonald's, Glory Days, Dice Burger, or Dogfish Head. The cheese is so melty. How do you like yours cooked. I like mine medium with sauces like catsup and mustard and mayonnaze. Burgers are very good. I worry about overdevelopment. Let's pause and think about quality of life before we do things like this. Now I'm hungry.