Fairlee Decision Deferred

Fairlee Decision Deferred

About 110 citizens testify in late-night hearing.

After listening to approximately 110 residents in a Monday night hearing that lasted until the early hours of the morning, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors made no decision on the controversial Fairlee-Metrowest development. Supervisor Linda Smyth (D-Providence), who represents the area near the Vienna-Fairfax Metro station where the development is planned, deferred the vote to Nov. 15, at 3 p.m.

Most of the speakers urged the board to turn down the application, which they said would bring more traffic congestion, crowd local schools and ruin the character of their neighborhood.

The proposal, filed by developer Pulte Homes, would develop the 56-acre area south of the Metro station with over 2,300 housing units in high rise towers and townhouses, 300,000 square feet of office space and between 75,000 and 100,000 square feet of retail including a grocery store.

"Our roads and schools will be overwhelmed," said Mark Tipton, a Fairfax County native who lives near the planned development. "At election time three years from now, who do you think [voters] will blame for the traffic?"

"We must ensure that the quality of education provided in Fairfax County Public Schools remains high or increased, not be degraded under the banner of smart growth," said Linda Ferri, PTA president at Mosby Woods Elementary School.

Many of the children generated by the development will go to school in "modular units," portable classrooms that are a bigger and more comfortable than regular trailers, said Gary Chevalier, director of facilities planning at Fairfax County Public Schools. He said he could "almost guarantee" that the children in the development would attend Marshall Road Elementary rather than Mosby Woods Elementary.

COUNTY PLANNERS have endorsed the proposal, saying that high-density development would provide the county with much-needed housing near transit which would help the area's traffic and air pollution problems.

"We think it's critical to be open to looking at ... allowing some additional density as well as some additional mixed-use development," said Fred Selden, director of the planning division at the Department of Planning and Zoning.

Frank McDermott, an attorney for Pulte Homes, called the proposal an opportunity to fix land use problems near Metro stations.

"It's only recently that Fairfax has begun doing the right things at its Metro sites," he said. "It's about providing choices of transportation to work."

The proposal has also been endorsed by many residents of a nearby neighborhood knows as either L and M or Poplar Terrace. Most residents of this neighborhood have sold their homes to Centex Homes to build a similar mixed-use project.

"The county, since I moved here in 1942, has changed immeasurably," said Pete Young, who lives in the neighborhood. "It's time to deal with current issues and hopefully future issues so that we can make this as good a county as we can possibly make it."

Michael Polychrones, a Vienna Town Council member who testified against the project, said the Vienna-Fairfax Metro station was "a little different" than the others, because it has been developed as primarily low-density residential for decades.

"You've probably locked yourself into that," he said.

IF THE BOARD approves the Fairlee-Metrowest project, it would join other approved residential projects near the Metro station. All told, the projects would add about 4,000 new housing units to the area, which could generate as many as 10,000 new residents or roughly two-thirds the population of the Town of Vienna.

Many speakers at Monday's hearing urged the board to delay approving any more plan changes until an independent group can study how all the new projects will impact the surrounding area.

"I ask you to consider everything that is proposed to be built before you consider this plan," said Doug Stafford, adding that he wanted to see "an area-wide traffic study, an area-wide school study."

"This isn't being considered as a whole," he said.

Board Chairman Gerry Connolly (D) said such a study would be "virtually impossible."

"I'm not sure how we would do that and I'm not sure it would be consistent with state law," he said.

But the board last summer approved a similar study in Tysons Corner when it voted to defer any plan amendment in Tysons.