Planning Commission Votes on Windover Heights

Planning Commission Votes on Windover Heights

Commission rejects five requests by three Vienna homeowners to adjust historic district boundaries.

In a virtually unanimous vote, the Vienna Planning Commission rejected requests by the Covel family and the Stich family to remove their properties from the Windover Heights Historic District by altering the district's boundaries lines.

Although Planning Commission members voted to keep the properties in the historic district due in part to overwhelming testimony from their neighbors to vote against the families' requests, they did admit that the language used in the ordinance should be reviewed for clarity, and that an inventory and an evaluation should be taken of historic properties in the district.

The Planning Commission rejected the applicants' requests on all five properties, 346 Windover Ave., N.W.; 130 Pleasant St., N.W.; 200 Walnut Lane, N.W.; 224 Walnut Lane, N.W.; and 222 Lovers Lane, N.W.; by a vote of 8-0-1, with Edward Umbrell abstaining due to a professional conflict.

The recommendation of the Planning Commission will now go before the Vienna Town Council, who will host a public hearing during its regularly scheduled meeting on Monday, July 7. At that time, the applicants may speak, as well as any citizens interested in the properties.

"It's time to move this forward and let the council have their due," said Planning Commission chair and councilman-elect Sydney Verinder.

Planning Commission members rejected the applicants' requests because they believed the properties in question were too integral not to be included in the district. Also, at previous public hearings on May 7 and 14, as well as a Malcolm Windover Heights Civic Association meeting, citizens overwhelmingly supported the properties should remain in the district.

Adjusting the boundaries "would certainly weaken the district and therefore destroy it," Verinder said.

Member George Creed likened the ordinance to a homeowners' association covenant and said, "I think we have to listen to the public."

Other members agreed with Verinder and Creed's assessments, adding that the Town should review the ordinance for clarity.

"Although it's an additional layer of review, it's not an undue layer of review," said member Peter Van der Nat.

The ordinance seemed pointed more towards architectural objectives than historic preservation, which may give it some vulnerability, said member Frederick Skaer.

Creed added that he would like to see in property titles language about the historic district, as he was concerned that the Stich's may not have been aware of the historic district when they moved in.

"It'd be much better to have that upfront," Creed said.

Vienna planning and zoning director Greg Hembree replied that the town would look into it, although the town doesn't know when titles change. Verinder asked if the town could create signage designating the historic district.