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Votes

Less Dense, Less Dense, Less Dense

APR task force recommends lower density three times.

James Fahs wants to keep the house he has lived in for decades. "This is the home where we raised our two sons," he said. "We have no home to which we yearn to return, excepting this one."

Fahs is one of the few residents of the Poplar Terrace subdivision that do not want to sell out to Centex homes. The development consists of 70 single-family homes near the Vienna Metro station, south of I-66 and east of Blake Lane.

The vast majority of the neighbors have cut a deal with the homebuilder to sell their properties at a value that exceeds the going market rate. Afterward, Centex would raze the houses and replace them with 1,452 new housing units consisting of apartments and townhouses.

Some residents have cited plans to take the payout and leave the Washington, D.C., area. "We have no elsewhere," Fahs said. "Don't push us out of our home. Don't let our house be destroyed," he asked of the Area Plan Review Task Force on Nov. 3.

The idea behind the development is to cluster higher density development close to the Metro station. "There is a shift in the type of housing that people are looking for," said Mary Theresa Flynn, attorney for Centex. "Really what you're looking for is location efficiency."

The development would consist of 594 age-restricted [at least one occupant must be older than 50] units, 478 condos, 350 apartments and 30 townhouses. "It opens up development to people who might not otherwise be able to afford to live in this area," Flynn said.

This area would be very near the proposed Fairlee-Metro West development, a high-density project that abuts the Metro station property and has been approved by the Planning Commission. Fairlee is scheduled to come before the Board of Supervisors on Nov. 15.

Department of Planning and Zoning staff, however, did not agree with Flynn on comparison with Fairlee. "It [Poplar Terrace] could undermine the goals of the transit station area," said Charlene Fuhrman-Schulz of the Department.

Fairlee, unlike Poplar Terrace, is designed in a way that "makes it transit-oriented, not just development next to transit," Fuhrman-Schulz said.

She also pointed out that the development would have a "significant" impact on traffic, and the project would add a projected 114 students to Mosby Woods Elementary, 27 to Jackson Middle School and 54 to Oakton High School. "There are significant impacts to transportation, schools and parks," Fuhrman-Schulz said.

The additional people at Fairlee, if it is approved, worked against the proposal, according to some task force members. "The impact of that [Fairlee] has got to be considered with this," said Jane Seeman, mayor of Vienna.

Other members of the task force took turns explaining why Poplar Terrace was a bad idea, echoing the issues Fuhrman-Schulz had brought up.

The plan was rejected by the task force in a unanimous voice vote.

THE OTHER major area under discussion was the proposal to decrease the density in the Wedderburn property — sometimes called Midgetville — west of Cedar Lane along the Washington & Old Dominion Trail.

The 12.63-acre parcel is currently planned for two to three units per acre, and the nominator, Alison Dyer, wants to lower it to one to two units per acre.

The development proposed for the property would consist of 29 units, said Jane Leppin, a descendant of the Wedderburn family, who is one of the owners of the land.

The land has been planned for two to three units per acre since 1975.

This would be done in a cluster development, according to a plan currently in the planning process. In this fashion, explained Fuhrman-Schulz, the development will have buffers from the trail and will stay out of more environmentally sensitive areas. If it is downzoned, only 13 units can be put on the property, because of the irregular shape. However, those units would be "by right," and the Department of Planning and Zoning could not stop them from being placed within those buffers and environmentally sensitive areas, Fuhrman-Schulz said.

Supporters of the downzoning believe that the 29-unit proposal is too intense for the area. "All we ask is that the development that go on be compatible," said Bob Smith, speaking on behalf of Dyer. "They are essentially going to have to clearcut the land."

Smith also said he did not wish the issue to become one of the right of a person to develop his land. "We are not about denying the property rights of the family."

Leppin said that rights are exactly the issue. She called the proposal essentially a take, in that it reduces the value of her property. She insisted that her rights to develop her property, which she said are codified by the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, be granted. "Maybe ownership rights aren't valuable, and it's up to the public to decide," Leppin said.

The task force sided with lower density. It approved the proposal to downzone by a voice vote with only a few dissenters.