Less than 5 acres of land on a street called Little is proving anything but. Since January 2003, representatives of the Stanley Martin Companies have been meeting with Herndon town staff in an effort to create a town home cluster on what is now eight residential lots. After many changes, and two Planning Commission hearings, which yielded support for the 42-unit development, the project came before the Town Council Tuesday night for approval of the rezoning request that would clear the way to build.
Instead, Steve Alloy, president of Stanley Martin, sat through two hours of testimony by 17 people only to have the hearing deferred until March 23.
"I don't know how more discussion of this makes this better," he said when asked if he could support a 60-day deferral. "I'm trying to hold the assemblage together and the contracts together."
But faced with a possible denial if the council voted Tuesday, Alloy opted for the deferral.
THE PROPOSED town home development faces opposition from its closest neighbors, the Van Buren Estates and the Downs, both single-family detached-homes developments. The neighbors would like to see less density, while others would just like to see the existing conditions on Little Street disappear. The Little Street property owners complained of drainage problems, properties so run down it is no longer fiscally responsible to fix them among other concerns. They say this is the first time in at least 20 years a developer has been able to convince all of the owners to sell and it could be another 20 years before it could happen again. Besides the properties on Little Street, Stanley Martin is also buying a property on Spring Street that is currently used as a septic business. The business, while not a permitted use, is grandfathered under previous ordinances. At one time the town even went to court to try to have the business declared in violation of the code and lost.
"The rezoning of this property will eliminate the problems plaguing the area for years," said Wayne Weaver, one of the Little Street owners.
Even the closest neighbor in the adjacent subdivisions spoke in favor of the plan.
"This area is deteriorating," said Edward Ruiz of Old Dominion Avenue. "If this is not approved, the houses will not be renovated and adjacent property owners' property values will decrease. The homeowners will likely move out and rent the properties. Renters will not take as good of care of the properties as the homeowners. And that's not saying much."
A MAJORITY of the neighboring property owners urged the council to vote down the rezoning, saying something better will come along. Instead, they preferred the current R-10 zoning, which is the same low-density residential zoning that governed the building of their homes.
"I've lived in Herndon for 16 years. When I moved in I knew Little Street would change. I do not oppose rezoning ... but this is too dense and does not fit with the character of Van Buren Estates and the Downs," said Justin Rackowski, a Sugarland Drive resident.
Even council members, while expressing support for the plan in general, felt the density was too much for the size of the property.
"I think this is high-end town homes. And I think the development would be an asset to the neighbors," said Councilwoman Carol Bruce. "I don't think R-10 is a viability. With that said, I think there are issues."
One is whether the development is required to have two entrances because it contains more than 30 units. Both the town's zoning administrator and the developer believe the town's ordinance supports having only one entrance, mostly because of ambiguity in the code which uses the wording driveways instead of private road when referring to access points connected to a public road. Council members said the intent is not ambiguous even if the language may be.
"I have real concerns that this proposal as is violates our zoning ordinance and I can't support that," Bruce