Once again the specter of Kings Crossing hung over Spring Bank Community Association's monthly meeting with the same result — no satisfactory solution. Unfortunately, this time the discussions turned into an exercise in group denial and frustration.
Although SBCA was the only group who eventually endorsed the mixed use development plan for the 11 acre site at the intersection of Richmond and South Kings highways, they spent much of Monday night's meeting at Groveton Baptist Church asking themselves "what can we do now" to rekindle developer interest.
In late November, Archon, owners of the property, announced that their contract with JPI Development had expired and they were looking at other options for the site. One of those is the potential of a "big box" store, such as Costco which had expressed previous interest.
"The Kings Crossing plan for mixed use development is gone. Would we want another town center type development to come in or are we in favor of one large store or other type user?" David Dale, SBCA president, asked his members.
Archon could develop the site commercially "by right" without seeking approval of County Planning. Archon and JPI were seeking a rezoning of the site only because of the mixed use plan which included residential units.
"It is true that Archon is no longer pursuing a plan for a residential type development. They are concentrating on the possibility of developing the site "by right," said Brett W. Kenny, chief aide to Mount Vernon District Supervisor Gerald Hyland.
"JPI is a residential developer. They never really wanted to develop a town center type development," said Jacqueline Hertz, a Fairview Drive resident.
However, after more than two years of negotiations and refining the development plans it appeared in June that SBCA, JPI, and Archon had reached a consensus on the development plan. JPI had significantly reduced the number of residential units planned for the site and SBCA had reduced their demands for commercial/retail space.
Throughout the long negotiations Hyland had said that he would support the plan when SBCA was in agreement. That occurred on June 12 with a formal vote by SBCA to support the reconfigured JPI plan by an overwhelming majority of 15 to 2.
However, that vote was not supported by the Mount Vernon Council of Citizens' Associations or the Southeastern Fairfax Development Corporation. Both pushed for additional changes.
The situation was exacerbated by the County's insistence that JPI/Archon pay a substantial sum to relocate the residents of the Penn Daw Mobile Home Park adjacent to the Kings Crossing site upon which JPI had an option to buy in order to incorporate that plot into the overall plan. The confluence of all these factors caused the demise of the plan as negotiated by SBCA and JPI/Archon.
"I share your disappointment. A lot of us tried very hard to make Kings Crossing a reality," said Richard F."Rick" Neel, president, SFDC, who was accompanied by Laura Fritts, executive director, SFDC, at Monday night's SBCA meeting. However, SFDC had refused to lend their support of SBCA's vote of confidence with JPI/Archon.
PART OF NEEL'S rationale for the collapsed negotiations was, "A number of developments throughout the entire Metropolitan Washington area have pulled the plug on mixed use development due to the real estate slump.
"The reality is that its tougher to develop along Richmond Highway. It's more appealing for developers to go to western Fairfax County than to work along Richmond Highway."
But, he assured SBCA members, "Gerry Hyland and SFDC are being proactive in trying to bring the Kings Crossing site back to life. But, we have to be prepared for a "by right" project" by Archon.
When asked by an association member if Archon's investment in the site had increased since they purchased it, Neel was quick to assure the group that it had. "They bought it two and a half years ago for $11 million. It has gone up substantially," Neel said.
One of the primary problems with an incoming big box store is the amount of traffic it would generate on Richmond Highway, according to Dale. "Costco envisions a minimum of 7,000 cars a day entering and leaving the site. If they don't get that many that means the store is not succeeding," he told his members.
That same scenario, although perhaps not in the same volume, would occur with most single retail development. It was not anticipated under the mixed use concept due to the nature of such type developments and residential generated traffic not being as consistent.
When Dale returned to his original question of how to get another developer to become interested in a town center concept for the
site or "is a big box store all that bad?" there was no consensus. "We need to have a lot more discuss about all the various aspects before any formal vote," said Martin Tillett, vice president, SBCA.
PRIOR TO the Kings Crossing discussion, Virginia State Delegate Kristen J. Amundson (D-44) addressed the group concerning the January 10 commencement of the Virginia General Assembly and her priorities. "Although, this is not a budget year there will be some very critical budgetary issues," she stated.
"There is approximately $1 billion in revenue to be allocated to specific projects. However, this is one-time money not money that is allocated to items that create ongoing expenses such as salaries," Amundson explained.
She further emphasized that transportation, most particularly in Northern Virginia, continues to command center stage in legislative debates. "The bulk of that billion dollars will go to transportation issues. But, can we find long term solutions to our transportation problems?" she asked rhetorically.
Amundson implored the audience to encourage legislators to return to the days of bi-partisan cooperation in reaching solutions for area problems. "Northern Virginia has had a tradition of working together to solve common problems regardless of party label. That has become fractured. You can encourage bipartisan support for legislation you believe in," she stressed.
She encouraged them to be proactive through email, phone calls, their district supervisor, their Senator, herself and the County Board of Supervisors. "If you see a bill you like encourage support by both Democrats and Republicans." she said.
As for her legislative initiatives in the upcoming session, Amundson outlined the following:
•To provide money for shelter kitchens and to exempt them from Health Department regulations requiring that they be comparable to commercial kitchens in order to provide food for the homeless. "We accomplished this before for food provided at sports events. If they got an exemption why shouldn't shelters which are providing a very necessary service to protect the homeless," she said.
•A bill to provide training for people to gain basic workforce skills.
•Legislation to encourage savings plan for long term care. This would be based on the model that allows individuals and
families to save for higher education expenses. "As our population ages, long term care is becoming increasingly critical and increasingly expensive," she said.
•"One of the things I have been asked to do is look into creating a separate celebration for George Washington's actual birthday, February 22. Presidents' Day is okay for retail sales and shopping centers but, Virginia needs to recognize the actual day. I've been working with Mount Vernon on this," she explained.