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Votes

Thumbs-Up for New Townhouses

Some 62 townhouses on Random Hills Road would sell in the $500,000s.

It's on to the Planning Commission for a new residential neighborhood proposed for the corner of Ridge Top Road and Random Hills Road in Fair Oaks.

It got a thumbs-up, Tuesday night, from the Springfield District/Fairfax Center Land-Use Committee. Planned are 62, brick-front, attached townhouses. Random Hills Investment LLC is the applicant, and Basheer & Edgemoore — which does custom and semi-custom homes — is the builder.

"It's the last piece of the puzzle of Random Hills Road," said attorney Greg Riegle, representing the developer. "We think this is a quality project that the community will embrace."

The site is 4.7 acres currently zoned for office use, and the developer needs Fairfax County's OK for a rezoning to high-density residential, 12 homes per acre.

"The Random Hills area has already successfully integrated homes, retail and offices," said Riegle. "Ridge Top Road has been the boundary between the more intense, office and commercial uses and the residential uses."

The community's main entrance will be at Ridge Top, where the developer will install a traffic light at its intersection with Random Hills Road. The neighborhood will have the same streetscape as what already exists on Random Hills, and its entrance will have open space, attractive landscaping and possibly a decorative sculpture.

THE STYLIZED townhouses are modeled after a development that Basheer built in McLean. "We spent a lot of time and effort on the design, and it's something we're proud of," said Riegle. "It has interesting roof lines, balconies, window treatments, etc., — even in the back."

In addition, the end units will also have distinctive, side-veranda entrances. The townhouses will have two-car garages and are anticipated to sell in the $500,000s.

The Candlewood Hotel is adjacent to where the homes would be built, and Riegle said the developer tried to mirror the configuration of the townhomes already existing on the other side of the Candlewood, to make things as compatible, as possible.

Furthermore, said Riegle, "The developer will honor all the previous transportation commitments that others have proffered for that area." When land-use committee member Sherry Fisher asked for specifics, he said there'll be double left-turn lanes at Random Hills and Waples Mill roads and an extra lane in each direction of Waples Mill between Route 50 and Random Hills.

Noting that the land is heavily treed, member Philip Poole asked about clearing plans. Riegle said much of it would have to be cleared just to get level ground "because of its steep topography." But he said there'll be a tree-save area around the periphery.

RIEGLE ALSO said a 6- to 9-foot high sound barrier would be erected between the back of the community and Route 50. "We had a noise-analysis done, and the barrier will be up before any of the units are occupied," he said. And a fence along Route 50 will separate the homes from the highway.

The developer will also make the required contributions to the county school system and Park Authority and will build five affordable dwelling units (ADUs) as part of the neighborhood.

Committee member Claudette Ward said she'd "like to see a proffer toward the new fire station being built near there because it'll serve these new residents." Bill Mayland, the county staff coordinator for this project, said the fire department hasn't asked for anything but, "If someone asks us, we'll pass it on."

Riegle said the townhouses will be developed and marketed as "condo-ownership units," with decks and patios, but without traditional backyards to maintain. Instead, the backyards will be landscaped and maintained by the homeowners association.

"You're taking a commercially zoned property and converting it to residential," said committee member Lowell Smith. "So you're decreasing the amount available for taxation and increasing the tax burden on the homeowners."

However, replied Riegle, "The [county's] Master Plan for this area has a residential option, and the change is reflective of where the market is. Office has been available there for 10 years, [but no one's taken advantage of it]. And from a quality-of-life standpoint, the community would prefer to have something generating less traffic than would offices."

Agreed Ward: "With all the other residential [uses nearby], I do believe residential is more appropriate in this area." Mayland said county staff is concerned about the site's drainage and is worried about potential traffic problems because the entrance to the property would be right next to the stoplight.

But Thomas Nutt III, who works in the vicinity, said he's "glad to see [this project]. I think it fits well and it'll be a nice addition to the neighborhood." The committee then approved the proposal unanimously. Next stop is the county Planning Commission on June 16.