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Houses, Houses Everywhere

Council weighs teo development plans and approves lease financing for road and library.

Fairfax City Council's work session on Tuesday, July 28 was dominated by two major development plans in downtown Fairfax: the Lowrey property at 4101 and 4103 Orchard Drive, and the Stafford property at 10090 Lee Highway.

The Lowrey development proved to be a contentious issue. Councilmember Jeffrey Greenfield was "leery" of the situation, he said, because the developers, Landmark Property Development, LLC, had bought another property in the past with plans to build on it a certain way. At the last minute, said Greenfield, Landmark had sold that property to another developer.

"Quite frankly, I felt duped," said Greenfield to Landmark representative John Thillmann. "Once bitten, twice shy."

Councilmembers Scott Silverthorne and Gail Lyon echoed his concerns, and suggested strongly that Landmark stick to its original plan of development. Since the 2.8 acre property contains a house built in the 1820s, which Landmark plans to renovate and resell (along with seven other new houses to be built on the property), the issue remains a sensitive one.

The council will hear the application for the Lowrey development on July 12. The application contains a rezoning request from R-2 residential to P-D planned development, size variances for a street, front yard and other features, and a waiver from the P-D commercial requirement.

The council also focused on the Stafford property, an area just south of the Mosby Woods subdivision off Lee Highway. Rocky Gorge Homes, LLC is applying to build two multi-family condominium buildings on that property. The area along the Lee Highway corridor was originally envisioned as a commercial area, said Silverthorne.

"There is room on the corridor for both," said Councilmember Gary Rasmussen. "Not a whole lot of residential, but some residential."

Dr. Stephen Fuller, economist at George Mason’s Center for Regional Analysis, defended the condominium development. "(The Fairfax region) is facing an enormous housing shortage," he said.

"(Residential buildings in commercial areas) is the beginning of a trend, not the end of a trend," said Mayor Robert Lederer. He suggested that the condominiums should be designed to look more like office buildings, with a flatter roof line, so that they would fit in with the rest of the buildings on Lee Highway.

In other work session matters, Lederer urged his colleagues to support financing a brick sound barrier along the section of George Mason Boulevard that runs through the Crestmont neighborhood in Fairfax. All the councilmembers supported the wall, but Councilmembers Patrice Winter, Rasmussen and Joan Cross expressed "deep reservations." The wall is slated to cost $650,000.

During the public hearing session, the council unanimously passed an ordinance to effect and lease the financing for road improvements, undergrounding utilities and the new public library in downtown Fairfax. The ordinance would let the city lease the financing to the highest bidder who is, in this case, the Fairfax Economic Development Authority. The maximum financing cost would be $45 million.

The City Council approved an amendment to the zoning ordinance that would strike the provisions for cluster development. The city code had to be brought up to date, since recent changes to Virginia state code require that cluster subdivisions over 2 acres must be permitted by right if they are permitted at all.

The consent agenda considered a plan to lease financing for $45 million for undergrounding utilities, road improvements and the public library. It also introduced an appropriation resolution for $30.5 million for Phase II of the undergrounding, road improvements and library, as well as a renewal of consultant services for the coming year’s civil engineering projects. These plans were approved, but the council deferred introducing an ordinance to amend Fairfax City Code (Article I, Chapter 98, Section 98-20) so that trucks with three or more axles would not be able to make left turns off of Colonial Road onto Pickett Road from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Other items on the public hearing agenda that were deferred:

* The Business Benefits Group had requested a special exception to the city code 110-180 (b)(4) and 110-181(c) to allow a sign in Old Town Fairfax that is larger than ground-mounted signs are allowed to be. The council deferred this issue until the July 12 council meeting.

* An amendment that would require separate special use permits in G-3 commercial districts for selling different types of vehicles, from motorcycles to automobiles to heavy machinery, deferred until a joint hearing with the Planning Commission on July 26.

* A zoning text amendment that would change the provisions for charitable institutions in several different districts.