Deciding to Defer

Deciding to Defer

Council gives green light for some projects and stalls others.

As August recess loomed near, the Fairfax City Council piled on the agenda items and public hearings at their Tuesday, July 13 meeting:

Council Defers Decision on Southeast Development

For the past two years, the city, the developer Artery Custom Homes, and neighbors of the southeast Fairfax community have been negotiating on a development to subdivide two existing lots and create four lots with houses on each. The neighborhood was interested in the lots, located at 4210 Orchard Drive and 10011 Mosby Road, because of the stormwater runoff problems that occur in that area.

In previous outreach meetings, neighbors expressed concerns that the houses should complement the neighborhood. They were also evenly divided over whether the houses should have front-loading or rear-loading garages, since the front-loading garages created less impervious surface but the back-loading garages blended better with the neighborhood.

The city's Planning Commission and city staff reached a compromise with the developer to have rear-loading garages, but the City Council deferred its approval on the project because of last-minute concerns expressed by the applicant over inconsistencies between the final contract and conditions required by the city.

Mayor Rob Lederer said he was reluctant to defer, but Councilmember Jeff Greenfield was concerned about the agreement between the city and the developer. Since no renderings of what the houses would look like were available, Greenfield feared that the developer could sell the development to another builder, and that builder might not use the desired design for the houses because the guidelines were not specific. Greenfield pointed to a recent situation in which one developer designed a townhouse development off of School Street but sold it to another builder.

Councilmember Joan Cross wanted the drainage issue addressed further by the city.

"This is the key issue in the project, in my mind," Cross said.

The Council will revisit this item and will have another public hearing on this item at its next meeting on July 27.

Artificial Turf at Fairfax High School is On Hold

Plans to put synthetic turf on an athletic field at Fairfax High School have gone on hold for now, due to concerns over increased costs for the project. Estimates put the cost of installing the synthetic turf at $913,988.

"This is not for lack of support, but going from $500,000 to close to a million is hard for this [Council] body to swallow," Lederer said.

In reviewing the city's Capital Improvement Plan this year, the Council asked staff to investigate installation of synthetic turf in a city field. After exploring Pat Rodio Park as an option, the city directed its focus to Fairfax High School.

Athletes and their parents favored the new turf when they went before the city's School Board Monday night, but the City Council decided to put the decision on hold due to the unexpected increased costs proposed for the project. The issue will be revisited when the city undergoes its annual budget process, Lederer said.

Former Mayor Suggests Ideas for Old Town Redevelopment

During the presentations from the public, former Fairfax mayor John Mason asked the City Council to consider his suggestions for Old Town redevelopment.

"You need vibrance in the downtown area," Mason said.

Mason outlined three aspects that the Council should consider: "venues, activities and pedestrians."

In discussing venues, Mason thought the lack of venues downtown hindered what the city could do, not just for cultural activities, but for events like the annual Chocolate Lovers Festival.

He suggested that the Council fix Old Town Hall, since it's the only "significant venue" downtown. By improving the building, the city could also make it more attractive as a rental facility.

"It really needs to be upgraded after 20 years of use," Mason said.

To bring about activity and pedestrians in Old Town Fairfax, Mason said the Council could consider collaborating with George Mason University in creating a theatrical space, expanding the Fairfax Museum as well as green space downtown, creating a space for artists above the garage space, and establishing a hotel somewhere in the city.

Mason also suggested that the city examine parking and traffic flow issues, as well as the widening of sidewalks. He concluded by offering his help, as a member of Fairfax's Spotlight on the Arts festival.

Contract Awarded to Demolish the Old Post Office

Crews are ready to begin work to demolish the old Post Office building on Chain Bridge Road. Glen Construction Company was awarded the $225,000 contract to tear apart the old building.

The development partner will reimburse the city the $225,000 demolition fee when it purchases the property from the city in spring 2005.

For the next three to four weeks, crews will remove fixtures and flooring inside the building. In mid-August, they will begin to demolish the structure, according to economic development director Earl Berner. Traffic shouldn't be affected since all the work can be done within the property.

Approval of Special-Use Permits For the New Police Station and City Hall Expansion

The City Council voted unanimously to approve special-use permits to allow expanded governmental use in residential areas. The permits allow the city to construct the new police station and expand City Hall.

The project would have two phases: the new police station and parking lot and the City Hall renovation will occur concurrently, with displaced City Hall employees using the current police station building. After the new police station is built, the current building will be demolished, but the front parking lot will remain.

Fairfax resident Jack Fox asked how the lighting for City Hall's parking lots will be timed at night.

"It's amazing the impact something like that has," Fox said, concerned about the neighboring Crestmont residential community to the south of City Hall.

Fairfax mayor Rob Lederer asked city staff to get back to him.

New Roof for the Fairfax Museum

The Council appropriated $64,170 for the replacement of the Fairfax Museum & Visitor Center roof. The current asphalt roof will be replaced with a zinc-coated copper roof material which should last for over 50 years.

The Capital Improvement Plan had designated $57,000, but an additional $64,170 was needed due to the doubling costs of the material.

Council to Address Community on George Mason Boulevard

In its work session, the City Council decided to present to the community this fall an option to open George Mason Boulevard with the intent of relieving cut-through traffic in the Green Acres neighborhood of Fairfax. The option is to finish constructing George Mason Boulevard, thus connecting University Drive and Armstrong Street. Road closures would occur at University Drive and School Street.

The Council had debated whether to include in the option a proposed connector road to University Drive before Armstrong Street, so that local traffic and emergency vehicles could pass through, but they were polled 4 to 2 to present the option without the connector road. Those against the connector road argued that commuters could still cut through the Green Acres neighborhood, thus negating the need for George Mason Boulevard.

The community will be asked their opinion on the option this fall.