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Votes

Reimagining the Braddock District

Citizen task force reviews nominations in APR process.

Maintaining low density was one of the main goals discussed at the Area Plans Review (APR) meeting Tuesday, Nov. 29, when a citizen task force met with Supervisor Sharon Bulova (D-Braddock) and county staff to examine proposed changes to the Fairfax County Comprehensive Plan.

The Braddock District APR task force has been meeting since last June to examine the Comprehensive Plan and come up with proposals, or nominations, to designate parcels of land for certain uses. This year, the task force proposed 12 nominations, while six others came from citizens and organizations outside the task force.

"This is a real democratic process," said task force member John Shivik. Tuesday’s meeting examined several of the task force’s own recommendations, which included land parcels adjacent to the Kings Park Shopping Center, the Ridge Manor development and Burke Centre.

The first nomination dealt with a group of land parcels at the southeast quadrant of Braddock Road and Rolling Road, just behind the Kings Park Shopping Center. The land currently holds retail stores, offices and a veterinary hospital. Parcels 51 and 52, which face Braddock Road, are zoned for low density commercial use and for residential use at one house per acre. Parcels 49A and 50, facing Rolling Road, are zoned for medium density commercial use. The proposed plan would create an option allowing parcels 51 and 52 to develop with office and commuter parking.

Task force members focused on the commuter parking proposal. Just north of the parcels, bordering Braddock Road, is an expanse of designated right-of-way that would be a good site for parking, said the task force.

The right-of-way was left over from a 1969 proposal to build a freeway where Braddock Road is now, said Bulova.

"I can't think of anything else that would give that much right-of-way," said Sterling Wheeler of the Fairfax County Department of Planning and Zoning.

"We were planning, on just parcels 51 and 52, to refurbish, rehabilitate, redo, and rebuild the office building and whatever [remained] on the two parcels to do a park and ride," said task force member Terry Wanbaugh. The proposal does not deal as extensively with building parking on the right-of-way parcel, she said, so a revision will look more closely at that possibility.

A COMMUTER parking lot near the Kings Park Shopping Center could take shape as anything from an underground lot to an above-ground parking deck, said Wanbaugh. But since the parcels are surrounded by residential neighborhoods, Bulova said, any plans to develop the land for parking must be mindful of the homeowners nearby.

"We need to make sure we are sensible of the face that there are homeowners on the other side of Braddock Road," she said. "No matter how much right-of-way we have, we need to make sure that whatever happens there is sufficiently buffered."

No parking garages or new buildings on the redeveloped parcel would be higher than the current buildings, said Wanbaugh.

Density was the key in the next two proposals, which were the Ridge Manor subdivision at Roberts Road, a 22-acre property zoned for one house per acre, and a group of single-family residential parcels along Olley Lane and Athens Road. The task force wanted to prevent developers from buying up the land, consolidating the parcels, and building high-density projects there. Residents of the Ridge Manor neighborhood had received letters from surveyors offering money for consolidating the parcels, said Bulova.

"We thought there would be a nomination of someone trying to buy up all the lots in there and develop on them," she said.

In the first proposal, the task force added words to the plan discouraging future neighborhood consolidation efforts, and worked with Wheeler to improve the language. Wheeler suggested that the nomination also restrict the plan from 2-3 dwelling units per acre to 1-2 dwelling units per acre.

"Our intent was to discourage the consolidation of the entire set of lots," said Rodney Clark, a Ridge Manor resident who attended the meeting.

The Athens Road parcel proposal mostly emphasized the plan's density limit of 1-2 dwelling units per acre, and made editorial changes in the language.

Another proposal would add text to the plan emphasizing the current low density of a vacant 6-acre lot bordering the Burke Centre neighborhood to the north and Fairfax County Parkway to the south. According to the Virginia Department of Transportation, the sight distance on the property does not allow for high-density building, and the nomination would add text pointing out the sight distance restrictions as well as the density limit of one house per two acres.

The parcel borders two different types of densities in the neighborhood: one house per acre on one side and three houses per acre on the other.

"We just wanted to make sure that when the lot was developed that it was developed at a lower density than Burke Centre," said task force member Steve Schrobo.

The task force also looked at a proposal regarding the Target store on Roberts Road and New Guinea Road, built about a decade ago on a 10-acre parcel of land zoned for medium density commercial and planned at 5-8 dwelling units per acre, typically a townhouse density. Although language in the plan had tried to discourage developing the parcel as a shopping center, said Bulova, it became a Target store anyway. The nomination sought to emphasize the current plan density of 5-8 dwelling units per acre.

"If the parcel were ever redeveloped, [the plan] would encourage somebody to do something different there," said Bulova. "It would clarify that 5-8 dwelling units per acre is an option."