0
Votes

Council OKs Higginbotham, Denies Church

Two major decisions come on split votes.

Most of the time, the Fairfax City Council votes are by unanimous decision, but on Feb. 22, two issues were decided in split votes.

Councilmembers voted to allow the development of the Higginbotham property. The issues had to be decided in four separate votes, each of which was 4-2. Councilmembers Gail Lyon and R. Scott Silverthorne opposed the development.

"In my opinion, this is a beautiful piece of property. It's a beautiful plan," said Councilmember Joan Cross, speaking in favor of the development.

Silverthorne and Lyon both expressed concerns about the size of the project, which will add 154 housing units. "I still have concerns about the scale and the density," Silverthorne said.

"I don't feel the size and density are right for this spot," Lyon said.

At the very end of the meeting, Mayor Robert Lederer spoke against the proposal. The mayor only votes in the case of a tie, so he did not have the opportunity to vote on the project. He made it clear, however, that he was opposed to the project. "I feel very strongly that this was another case of too much on too little," he said.

LEDERER QUESTIONED what sort of direction the city wants to head in as a community. He cited several other projects currently in the works that would call for even more condominiums. Revedelopment, he said is a major trend. "It's the flavor of the month. It's the one people can get financing on. It reminds me of townhouses in the '80s," he said.

"Is that where we want to head as a community?" Lederer asked. "When is enough enough?"

The Higginbotham property is approximately 11 acres located on the south side of Main Street at the intersection with Judicial Drive.

A stream flows through the middle of the property. For that reason, buffers are in place that prevent that area from being developed. The project is split into two sections. The northern part of the project will have 36 townhouses, which the developer, Jaguar Development, is calling "Piazza Homes."

The southern portion will have 118 condominiums in two sections.

At Tuesday's public hearing, some residents expressed concerns that the development was too dense. Douglas Stewart said that he does not believe that the project will actually encourage people on the property to walk to businesses on Main Street.

The intersections have no crosswalks or pedestrian signals, Stewart said, and the sidewalks on the project are designed more narrowly than city standards call for. "What I don't want is business as usual density that doesn't give people alternatives to getting in their cars," he said.

Several other residents came to speak in favor of the development. Some were current city residents who were particularly happy that the project included condominiums. "By approving this project you will give us the opportunity to continue to live here," said Carole Larkin.

IN ORDER to develop the townhouses, Jaguar will have to fill in part of the stream's flood plain, and build in the Resource Protection Area which is supposed to buffer the stream.

The area is currently developed with three apartment buildings and a gravel parking lot. Some of these structures are in the Resource Protection Area, already. The amount of building in the Resource Protection Area will be reduced by the redevelopment from about 16,000 square feet now to 4,800 square feet, said Michelle Coleman, deputy zoning administrator for the City of Fairfax.

The development will also encroach on the Manassas Gap Railroad right of way, which runs along the southern edge of the property. Jaguar has committed to constructing a historical marker to commemorate the right of way.

Additionally, the city will have to give up Yorktown Drive. The street is currently owned by the city, but extends into part of the northern portion of the property.

The city could have requested funds for the land, but instead will give it to the developer. Councilmember Jeffrey Greenfield said that the city has not spent much on the street so he questioned charging the developer for the property. "I don't understand where this policy is coming from," he said.

THE OTHER SPLIT vote came on the application from the One God Ministry which wants to build a church on Chain Bridge Road near School Street.

Residents in the nearby Chancery Park neighborhood oppose the church. The church's trustee, Johnson Edosomwan, also owns a number of properties in the area, and the residents want to see a development plan for the entire area.

Edosomwan pointed out that the two proposals are distinct. "This application has nothing to do with the development of the parcel," he said.

Silverthorne moved to deny the request to build the church, citing the impact on traffic. The vote to deny was split until Lederer sided with denying the application. Voting against the church were Councilmembers Silverthorne, Lyon and Patrice Winter and Lederer. Supporting the church were Councilmembers Cross, Greenfield and Gary Rasmussen.