Land Owners Oppose Condemnation

Land Owners Oppose Condemnation

City Council wants to save land for open space use.

Two issues dominated the Fairfax City Council’s meeting last Tuesday. Owners of the Grefe property off Mosby Road questioned the council’s handling of purchasing open space. Woody’s Ice Cream re-negotiated with the council regarding hours of operation, permit length, and parking spaces.

Grefe Property Update

Grefe property owners voiced their dissatisfaction regarding the council’s recent decision to condemn their property, during the open hearing portion of the council meeting. By condemning the property, the city took the first step in acquiring private property by eminent domain. The city will make an offer to the owner, who will then accept or reject the city's appraisal. If the offer is rejected, the courts will determine the fair market value.

Condemnation proceedings occur when both parties fail to agree on a price for the property.

The owners speaking at the meeting were all children of the late Ted Grefe, who was responsible for developing much of the land surrounding the property. The council wishes to buy the Grefe property, three acres of tract fully surrounded by residential homes, for open space use. An advisory referendum, passed 2 to 1 by Fairfax residents in November 2000, allows the city to collect as much as five cents for five years from each real estate taxpayer.

But the owners said they thought the council wasn’t spending the city’s money wisely by purchasing their property.

"There’s a time to be fiscally responsible, and I believe it is now," said Caroline Grefe Chappel, as she asked the council to rescind its motion permitting the condemnation proceeding.

The owners also disagreed with the Resource Protection Area (RPA) designation of the creek running through the property. If the creek is an RPA, meaning that the waters eventually flow to the Cheaspeake Bay, it protects the creek from development.

Co-owner Lori Grefe Jennings said she’s disappointed with the way the council has treated her family’s property, which the family has paid taxes on for years. She brought a petition signed by 85 taxpayers who also question the city’s agenda.

"They are concerned that we have no real plan to acquire land," Jennings said.

Several council members defended their position during the council comments portion of the meeting, saying that the city intends to purchase the property at full-market value.

"Yes, condemnation is a long, drawn-out process, but it is clearly the intent of the city" to pay full market value, said council member Gary Rasmussen.

Council member Scott Silverthorne said the condemnation process was a necessary alternative in order for the city to purchase the property. A judge will look at both appraisals submitted by the owners and the city, and determine which appraisals suit the property best.

"While it’s not perfect, the due diligence process does exist," Silverthorne said. "That system was put into place to project both parties."

Mayor Robert Lederer agreed, adding that the city had to change course because a by right was submitted in the process.

"We had no other choice but to go condemnation," Lederer said.

Lederer, who was skeptical of the open space referendum when it passed two years ago, said that the passage of the referendum shows that preserving open space is a priority for many Fairfax City citizens. He also said the city is spending up to $40 million for downtown redevelopment, $60 million on education facilities and $20 million on town hall and police departments, so the city should preserve some funding for open space acquisition.

"The citizens spoke, and they spoke loud and they spoke clear," Lederer said.

Woody’s Ice Cream

Woodrow W. Lashley, Jr. asked the council to consider his special use permit request to operate an ice cream stand on 9919 Main St. He disagreed with some of the recommendations the Fairfax City's Community Development and Planning had placed on his permit request. He asked the council to reconsider some of the recommendations, which included altering store operation hours and lengthening the time to renew his permit from one year to two years.

"We're not selling liquor or any other alcoholic beverage," Lashley said of the 10 p.m. closing time that the community development office advised.

Lederer encouraged Lashley and the community development office to come up with alternatives to the office's recommendations. The council then voted on the revised recommendations, which were to extend Woody's Ice Cream's operations from 9 a.m. to 12 midnight (although the posted closing time would be 10 p.m.); extend the special permit duration from one year to two years; allow Woody's Ice Cream to be open from April 1 to Oct. 31; and place a fence and gate on the eastern and southern sides of the storage lot. Lashley also agreed to make signs showing the designated parking spaces for 9919 Main St.

"All he's ever created through this business is good will," Lederer said.

The council approved the special permit request with its recommendation 5 to 1.

THE COUNCIL also decided on the following items:

* The council approved the special use permit submitted by Ted Britt Ford Sales, Inc., which would allow off-site parking in the C-2 (retail commercial) district for vehicles offered for sale by automobile dealerships. The council also approved a special exemption which would allow the reduction of off-street parking requirements for storage use. It would also modify the transitional screening requirements and parking lot landscaping requirements at 11091 Main St. and 11160 Lee Highway.

* The council approved the ordinance pertaining to courthouse security fees and sheriff's processing fees.