Although the underlying plan is still undecided, the rezoning hearing for the Wedderburn property, known as “Midgetville,” went on as scheduled on June 1. The property, a little over 12 acres at the corner of Cedar Lane and the Washington & Old Dominion Trail, had been undergoing competing processes.
A rezoning application was filed to develop the property by Jane Leppin, a co-owner of the land that is currently zoned for one house per acre. The most recent version of the plan calls for 24 houses, but earlier incarnations had called for higher density.
A group of neighbors filed an amendment to the county’s Comprehensive Plan which mandated a lower density, and required a host of other provisions such as a minimum buffer from the W&OD Trail and respecting a stream on the property.
The stream had been perennial, meaning that development would be restricted within 100 feet of either side. Engineers working for Leppin classified the stream as intermittent, which would remove many of the restrictions. While the engineers followed established county procedures, the neighbors have noted that the process for declassifying a stream is far less rigorous than necessary for classifying it. Once the stream leaves the property is again perennial, but once it enters the Town of Vienna, it is again intermittent.
During the May 18 Planning Commission hearing on the plan change, Planning Commissioner Ken Lawrence (Providence) changed the language of the amendment. He said that the proposed change contained too many specifics, such as specifying the width of the buffer from the trail, for the Comprehensive Plan.
The Planning Commission’s recommendations are set to go to the Board of Supervisors for a decision on July 11. As a result, a group of neighbors had been lobbying for a deferral of the hearing until after the board makes its final decision.
“I truly believe we should not be having the hearing tonight,” said Deborah Reyer, one of the Wedderburn neighbors. Speaking at the June 1 public hearing, she and several other neighbors cited environmental concerns and the additional stormwater runoff that will be generated by the new houses. “We’re going to lose the [Chesapeake] Bay. We’re going to lose it one stream at a time,” she said.
Other opponents said that the language which had been removed from the plan amendment was more significant than the number of houses, and asked that those requirements be put on the property now, during the rezoning.
Other nearby residents expressed approval of the development plan, saying the property, which contains multiple, century-old trees and some small houses, needs work. “It is overgrown. The houses are ramshackle,” said Edward Blum.
Members of the Planning Commission got into a discussion with some speakers about tree protection. Commissioners Frank de la Fe (Hunter Mill) and James Hart (At-large) both said that the development plan which contains proffered, tree-save areas will do more to guarantee protection of the existing trees on the property than other kinds of development.
Speakers Rebecca Cate and Mike Cavin said that the developer would still have to protect trees in a by-right development.
If the property is developed “by-right” it would mean fewer houses. Potential developers would still have to maintain minimum, tree-save requirements, but those could be met through new plantings or by retaining existing trees.
The proposed rezoning application does not appear to conflict with the plan change currently under consideration. The Planning Commission voted to defer until July 28 making a decision on the rezoning for the Wedderburn property.