Infill development threatens a neighborhood in the City of Fairfax's southeast quadrant, bringing George Hanover to appreciate the wooded area behind his yard, where builders are proposing eight houses.
"We've seen deer, raccoon, lots of birds. I wouldn't consider myself exactly a tree-hugger, but it's nice to look out on the trees and woods," he said.
Across the street from Andy Werthmann, another developer is eyeing that property as well, to replace the two existing older houses with four houses. Werthmann, the president of the Southeast Fairfax Civic Association, is worried about the character of the neighborhood.
"My phone's been ringing off the hook about this issue. They do not want to see the creek abridged and the street put through," he said.
Around the corner, Stephanie Lanham was also worried about the potential cut-through traffic.
"I would be really concerned if they connected to Burke Station Road. We don't need more houses," she said.
The Farrell family owns the property where the four homes were proposed.
"We do have the right to do what we will with our property," he said.
IN A RECENT community meeting with city officials, the concerns varied from open space, trees, traffic, the existing stream, storm-water runoff, the retention pond, children's safety, and 100-year storms. City official Jack Levins ran the slide show, with fellow staff member David Hudson, Bob Sisson, Mayor Rob Lederer, and Councilmembers Patrice Winter and Joan Cross. Although the proposals have not been officially submitted, the four-house plan was turned down by the city, and the eight-house proposal was under examination.
The two parcels of land are along Orchard Drive where it becomes Mosby Road, south of Main Street in the Halemhurst community. Mosby stops and continues on the other side of a small stream, which has a footbridge across it. The smaller piece of land was initially proposed with a court, so the additional houses would be on a street. It was rejected by the city.
The second parcel of land, parallel to the stream, will have a court off the eastern side of Mosby, with eight houses along it. The city insists that the footbridge will remain, and a road opening the area to cut-through traffic is not part of the plans, though no one would rule that possibility out.
"I believe the city stated in the past they did not wish to connect it, and the sketch does not have it connected," said Levins.
Hudson reiterated that issue, but neither would guarantee it.
"I can foresee no circumstances that would allow the streets to be connected," said Hudson.
There is also a city trail and an official section of open space, marked by a sign, which goes through the property.
AREA RESIDENTS took advantage of the opportunity to voice their opinions.
"How can you entertain a developer’s suggestion to build?" one asked.
"It's happening all over Northern Virginia," replied Lederer.
"You’re going to have a lot of traffic going out Virginia and Orchard," said one man.
"Do they have just a right to pipe a stream?" asked another.
"When it's gone, it's gone," Lanham said.
One woman got to the point: "We're not happy about this."
ONE OPTION is for the city to purchase the land for open space. Lederer noted the city’s recent purchase of land: three acres in Providence, 21 acres in Mosby Woods and 4.5 acres near Rebel Run. It wasn't cheap, according to Lederer, in the $5-million to $10-million range.
"We've spent the allocation by double so far," he said.
He did admit that this section of the city was lacking open space, though.
"The southeast quadrant was identified as an area that needed open space," he said.
City resident Jennifer Lear has lived in the city for her whole life. She wasn't aware of that situation, but of construction in general.
"I think they're trying to squeeze too many houses in," she said.
George Mason University student Sally Shukry thought it was all about taxes.
"I think it’s all about filling up the pockets," she said.
THE CITY COUNCIL is in recess until Sept. 10, when it has its next meeting. Lederer recommended people bring their concerns to that meeting on a more official basis.
The next step for the city officials is to provide feedback to developers, give a technical analysis, determining if it is a by-right issue, and provide their opinion to developers.
"What I'm hearing backs up our initial impression," Hudson said.