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Votes

More Density off Blake Lane?

Another proposal to put high-density, high-rise apartment buildings near the Vienna/Fairfax Metro station may come before the Planning Commission in the next few months. Like the Fairlee development, the proposal by Centex Homes to put apartments and single-family homes off Blake Lane is designed to take advantage of the proximity of the Metro station. The plans call for 1,326 new units and 24,650 square feet of retail space off Blake Lane right next to East Blake Lane Park.

Right now, the neighborhood — known as Poplar Terrace or L & M — consists of 50-year-old, single-family homes. All but a handful of the 70 owners of the lots have agreed to sell their houses to Centex so the developer can consolidate all the parcels.

The proposal was filed as part of the Area Plans Review process, a biennial exercise during which citizens and groups can apply to change the plans for certain plots of land. The Centex proposal will now be reviewed by the citizen panel, then by the Planning Commission, before the Board of Supervisors casts the final vote on it.

"I can remember when this was rural," said Peter Young, who has lived in the neighborhood since 1953 and whose family used to own much of the land that was subdivided to create the existing single-family homes. Over the years, Young has seen more roads and houses spring up, as well as an interstate highway, I-66, and a Metro station near his house.

The traffic and the congestion have taken their toll on Young, a lifelong area resident, who is moving to Florida. He is one of the most energetic backers of the Centex plan.

"We're an older, residential, single-family neighborhood, and we have Five Oaks Road, which runs from Blake into the Metro," he said. "Our neighborhood has been somewhat destabilized by all the traffic."

It makes sense, then, Young said, for the area to be turned into a transit-centered development, with condos, townhouses and some shops.

"Finally, planners are realizing that higher density close to the Metro will attract people to live by the Metro and use it for work," he said, adding that the neighborhood is about a 15-minute walk from the Vienna/Fairfax station.

NOT EVERYONE in the neighborhood is as willing as Young to see it turned into a mixed-use development.

"My wife and I are quite happy where we are, and we're not ones who wish to decamp," said Jim Fahs, who has lived in Poplar Terrace since the 1970s.

The houses should be preserved, he said, because they represent some of the last remaining single-family homes that are moderately priced, compared with others in the county.

"This is an area where some people with not astronomical incomes could find a house, and I fear that if it's redeveloped, we'll lose that," Fahs said. "To what extent does Fairfax County want to replace viable single-family communities with high-density developments? Is that a fair trade to destroy good single-family housing stock?"

Supervisor Linda Smyth (D-Providence), who will move the final vote on the plan change, said she has not had a chance to look at the Centex application yet.

Peter Slivka, president of the Circle Woods Citizens Association, who has been fighting the Fairlee proposal off Route 29, said Centex could use the Fairlee development as precedent if Pulte Homes is allowed to complete its plan for Fairlee.

But he, too, said he has not had time to focus on the Centex proposal yet.

"We can only fight one battle at a time," he said.

<1b>— David Harrison