Planning Commission May Defer Fairlee Decision

Planning Commission May Defer Fairlee Decision

Citizens form new group opposing the controversial project.

The Fairfax County Planning Commission will likely defer its decision on the controversial Fairlee/Metrowest proposal in Fairfax, Planning Commissioner Ken Lawrence (Providence) said Tuesday.

Commissioners are scheduled to vote on an application to redevelop an old neighborhood just south of the Vienna Fairfax Metro on Thursday, Sept. 9.

"It just doesn't look very likely that there is going to be a decision this Thursday," said Lawrence, adding that he did not know when a new date would be set. "We are still juggling several issues."

The proposal has been talked about for decades and has stirred up some opposition among neighbors.

Since the commission's July 22 public hearing on the matter, a new citizens group has formed to oppose the application. The Fairfax Citizens for Responsible Growth, or FairGrowth, which brings together 50 residents from 10 communities near the Metro station, was created to protest the county's development policies, said Circle Woods resident Will Elliott, a member of the group.

"We're not against growth," said Elliott. "But an 8-ounce glass can only hold so much water, and we all know what happens when you try to put 10 ounces in."

Lawrence said he has visited the group's Web site [] and added FairGrowth's concerns to the list of unresolved issues on the proposal.

"I think it shows the stress we're under as a county," he said. "We have people continuing to come to the county and the county's not getting one square centimeter bigger. That means they're going to be thicker on the ground and the question is where do you put them? It would appear that putting them near transit is a good strategy and then other questions devolve."

THE PROPOSAL, brought by developer Pulte Homes, calls for replacing ranch-style and two-story single-family homes with about 2,350 condominiums and townhouses, 300,000 square feet of office space, and between 25,000 and 75,000 square feet of retail in 14-story towers next to the station. Pulte is calling the development "Metrowest."

"[Developers] have been proposing to do something with that project since the early ‘80s. It may be earlier than that," said Richard Bochner, a resident of Virginia Center, who chaired an eight-month citizens task force to study the proposal.

Residents of Circle Woods, located next to Fairlee, say the development would disrupt the suburban character of the neighborhood and cause traffic backups on Lee Highway, despite assurances by the developers that many of the project's residents would commute via Metro.

Elliott served on the task force chaired by Bochner and said some neighborhoods' concerns were not represented.

"There are about eight or nine communities that were included in it, but there were five other neighborhoods and associations [that] are equally close to the development that were not included," he said.

As Fairfax County is increasingly looking at redeveloping older neighborhoods into similar "town center" developments, adjoining neighborhoods need to be taken into account, said Elliott.

"It's just not a Fairlee-Metrowest question, but it's sort of an ethos," he said.

Lawrence said he welcomed citizens' participation. "The more we get people's views the better informed we are about the decision we have to make."

Bochner said all members of the task force were able to voice their concerns.

"As far as I was able to tell, they had asked all their questions and had gotten all their answers. What else can I say?"