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Plan Changes Menace Landmark

Smitty's Building Supply and Hollywoods and Vines garden center and nursery with its giant watering can and plastic palm trees beckoning Route 1 travelers could one day be no more.

The locations are prime areas for change under the Fairfax County Comprehensive Plan Review process for Mount Vernon District.

Of the 39 nominations for a change in zoning considered by the recently formed Mount Vernon Area Plans Review Task Force, most deal with providing for more office and retail space, in combination with increased residential use, along the Route 1 corridor from the Capital Beltway to Fort Belvoir. In most cases, if the change is approved it leads to eliminating what is presently on that parcel.

Located on Richmond Highway, Hollywoods and Vines is owned by John Johnson. It sits on land owned by Smitty's, located directly behind it.

The entire site is included in several plan review nominations as part of a land use package to be converted to office and retail or mixed-use development. If approved by Fairfax County Planning and Zoning and purchased by a developer both Smitty's and Hollywoods and Vines would disappear from that location.

"We have been receiving offers for this property for years. I have been telling all those interested that we weren't interested in selling but I'd put their name in a book and if we changed our minds we'd let them know," said Rick Smith, president of Smitty's Building Supply.

"We've been here for 30 years and the entire family is involved with the business. My seven brothers and sisters and my mother are all part of this decision making process," he said.

For Johnson, sale of the property would mean either deciding to move to another location along the corridor or closing down.

"I really enjoy this business, but I also need a lot of acreage. With the price of land now that may prove to be the decision maker," Johnson said. "Rick and I have had a really good working relationship and he has kept me informed all the way. I would really like to stay in this immediate area if we have to move," he said.

Hollywoods and Vines is a full service nursery with a large client base. In addition to plants, trees and shrubs it offers garden furniture, pots, other outdoor accessories and decorating items.

Marianne Gardner is one of their customers. Gardner is chief of Policy and Plan Development for Fairfax County's Department of Planning and Zoning.

"I know that revitalization of the corridor is a primary goal and that there is a need for more office and retail development, but I would really hate to see Hollywoods and Vines go," she said. "If they do move, I hope they are able to stay in the area." Gardner said.

Before Smitty's became an element of the nomination process, Rick Smith and his family decided to dust off the offers book and send out potential contract proposals to those who had expressed interest in purchasing the property.

"We mailed out 40 contracts in two days," Smith said.

Smitty's sells supplies to professional builders, accounting for 95 percent of their business. Smith said the company moved their headquarters to Manassas five years ago and most of their sales come from that location. Their trucks also operate from that site.

"Even if we sell this property we would like to maintain a presence in the Richmond Highway area with an order operation," Smith said. "The Smiths will decide who is an acceptable buyer."

Those who received the contract proposals have been invited to return them by mid January.

"We'll then call the top three bidders for further discussions," Smith said.

Provisions in the contract combined with settlement and closing time, would allow the two businesses up to two years to close their doors.

Johnson agreed with the two-year time estimate, but he's optimistic.

"It also may not happen," Johnson said.

One of the issues driving the nominations for the southeastern portion of the county, is the U.S. Department of Defense's Base Realignment and Closure Commission (BRAC). Primary to BRAC's impact on the Mount Vernon and Lee districts is the anticipated relocation of 21,000 personnel to Fort Belvoir.

This is anticipated to cause major changes in the demand for both residential, office and retail space along the Route 1 corridor.

Beginning in January the Area Plan Review Task Force, will begin its work in earnest. They will review each of the 39 nominations impacting Mount Vernon District and make recommendations to Supervisor Gerald Hyland through March 2006.