Little Street lives up to its name. The small roadway off of Spring Street supports a handful of houses before the street abruptly stops and a new development springs up on the other side of the guardrail.
However, officials at the Stanley Martin Companies and the seven property owners see 43 town homes. The homeowners in the adjacent development, the Van Buren Estates, see an overdeveloped piece of property that will only have a negative impact on their community.
The Herndon Planning Commission will have to decide, Jan. 5, whose vision is the clearest. Stanley Martin must obtain a zoning change from single-family residential to townhouse cluster at a maximum of 10 units per acre before processing with its plan. The combined assemblage — consisting of three lots on Spring Street and four lots on Little Street — totals 4.88 acres.
The development was originally scheduled for action by the commission Monday, but due to a mistake in the notification process by the applicant, the decision was deferred. That did not stop both sides from presenting their case.
"Four point two square miles, that's the size of our small town. That's 1,400 acres to develop in this town. I would like to see some moderate planning in this town and stop this rubber stamping of these clusters," said David Kirby of Benicia Lane. "Moderate to me is by right. If it's R-10 then it stays R-10."
ORIGINALLY, Stanley Martin was seeking to build 44 units, but has since modified the plan to show 43 town homes. All of the homes are proposed to have either front-loading or rear-loading garages, plus there will be additional parking provided within the development. Green space is proposed to the south of the development to help buffer it from Van Buren Estates. The property is bordered by commercial uses to the east and north, and residential properties to the south and west.
Town staff would like to see the development reduced by two more houses in order to eliminate awkward alleys leading to garages and to provide additional buffering for adjacent houses. In general, the houses will be similar to the development Stanley Martin is constructing on Jonquil Lane.
"In terms of landscape scheme, this is a perfectly logical transition," said Norma Hammer, the attorney representing Stanley Martin. "This proposed development is very high quality."
Steve Alloy, president of Stanley Martin, said the decision to build the cluster is an easy one, given the state of the houses, of which about half are owner occupied.
"I haven't seen someone come in and put a $800,000 house on Little Street," Alloy said. "The only way to do this is by an assemblage, to get everyone to sell."
Previous attempts by developers to purchase the combined assemblage have failed, but this time around Stanley Martin was able to get all of the property owners on board.
"It's time. Those places have got to go," said Wayne Weaver, a 35-year resident of Little Street. "They have served their purpose. If this doesn’t go through, it will be another 10 years before someone can come in and do it right."
Alloy said the homes will sell for a base price of around $430,000 to $470,000 with special options and features pushing the cost even higher. The type of owners he expects to attract are so-called empty-nesters looking to downgrade from a larger home, young couples looking for their first home and single women who want the security and low maintenance.
THE ADJACENT NEIGHBORS aren't as sold on the proposed development as the property owners.
"I think there are three options. I can do nothing ... support the proposal ... or third, be against it. To support this proposal, Stanley Martin has to show how the neighborhood and I are going to benefit from the zoning change. I haven't heard how my neighborhood and I are going to benefit," said Justin Ruckowski, an adjoining homeowner. "I see an open area today. If they build by right, that will change, but it's by right. Stanley Martin stands to earn several millions net profit from this venture. Where's my benefit?"
Another adjoining homeowner said since his lot is elevated, all he will see is a row of decks and streetlights from his backyard.
"I'm sure they would be beautiful townhouses, if they weren't right next to my property," said John Quinn, a Van Buren Estates resident. "I request you keep it R-10. That's what I bought into ... the town never told me it would be anything but R-10."