Filling in Empty Spaces

Filling in Empty Spaces

Debbie and Steve Ikirt had an older house on 2.5 acres off Newington Road and an entrepreneurial plan to go with it. Their plan was to divide the property in half, build a 7,000 square foot house on one half, move out of their existing home, tear it down and build a similar sized home on the other half and sell it.

This is one type of infill development that is sweeping the county, called 'by-right, infill."

"We had planned all along when we purchased the property eight or nine years ago," Debbie Ikirt said.

The land was already zoned R-1 and putting two houses in that space did not require any rezoning but she did notice the amount of checks she was writing to the county for one thing or another during the process of getting the plans accepted.

"We had to go through with all approvals. Every time we turned around, we had to have our pockets out," she said.

Ikirt's property is in Supervisor Gerry Hyland's (D-Mount Vernon) district but the same thing is going on all over the county according to Jeff McKay, the chief of staff in Supervisor Dana Kauffman's (D-Lee) area. Technology and the market are driving some of these decisions.

"As land diminishes in the county, this land is worth the effort to make these lots buildable. The technology didn't use to make these lots usable," McKay said.

AN 8.6 ACRE AREA sandwiched between two developments on the Springfield-Franconia Parkway was recently rezoned from R-1, one house per acre, to R-3, which is three houses per acre. Joe Kelly's house backs up to the wooded lot which is soon to be 20 single family detached homes. He knew about the plan when he moved in back in 1982. He went to the meetings about the rezoning.

"The big fight we had was ingress and egress, in and out. They agreed not to build to the maximum. There's not much you can do about it," he said.

Although the land is right on the parkway, the only access the commuters will have will be through the existing neighborhoods. Kelly's neighborhood does not have a homeowners association so there was no joint effort to fight the plans but he isn't too worried about it.

"We tried to negotiate some additional entrances and exits. The engineering was done, there was nothing we could do about it," he said.

The Springfield District hasn't had the same impact from infill development as Lee District. There are many portions of the Springfield District that are still rural, according to Supervisor Elaine McConnell's (R-Springfield) chief of staff, Norm Beyer.

"Hers is a growing district," he said.

PROFFERS ARE ONE way the county gains off infill projects like the one bordering Kelly's neighborhood. Although proffers like schools, roads or parks, which have been proffered in the past, were not part of it, they did agree to leave a 25-foot buffer of existing trees.

In the by-right infill cases where one or two houses are put in, there aren't any proffers attached. Cash proffers were recently introduced by the Planning Commission in these cases.

"The Planning Commission passed it unanimously at last meeting, the Board of Supervisors will hear it in early September. It specifically helps the county with infill development," he said.

OTHER PROBLEMS with infill construction are popping up in the supervisor's offices as well. Some of the new houses that are built in old neighborhoods are inconsistent with the surrounding area. One example McKay has been involved with dealt with a house off Beulah Street in Franconia.

"Somebody just tore down an old house and built a new one. All they did was get a building permit." he said, "the character and aesthetics' of the neighborhood suffers. We can't withhold a building permit because it doesn't get the character of the neighborhood."

They've seen this in Springfield as well.

Overcrowding also accompanies these cases sometimes.

"Some of them are being built for multi-generation families. Sometimes it's multi-family too, they're being built to handle more than a conventional family," McKay said.