Potential For Change

Potential For Change

Three APR nominations seek to increase density, add retail space in Mount Vernon District.

Residents of the Mount Vernon District may look at a landfill near Mason Neck and see nothing more than years of garbage, piled up and covered by dirt.

Ray Rainwater sees the potential for open space and high-density housing.

Some residents near Pohick Road may see a storm water problem near the Chapel Acres development. One developer sees a way to fix flooding and make the area better by introducing more housing and new water systems.

And, as the Lorton Arts Foundation prepares to begin work on the Lorton Workhouse, the cornerstone for the redevelopment of the former prison area, the same developer envisions a mixed-use area, bringing new residents, shops and services to a rapidly growing part of Fairfax County.

Three nominations submitted as part of the Area Plans Review process in the Mount Vernon District offer a variety of ways to change how land is zoned throughout the district, from turning a landfill and some surrounding property into a haven for homeowners to using new development to fix a storm water-induced swamp land.

For several years, Ray Rainwater has owned a landfill and several surrounding properties on Gunston Road near Richmond Highway, a total of 159 acres, said Keith Martin, the lawyer who is working on behalf of Rainwater and his two companies, Rainwater Concrete Co., Inc. and Mason Neck, L.P.

"He wants to consolidate the acreage into one unit and use the land, which is currently zoned R-1, to build up to 300 luxury condos on about 50 of the acres," Martin said.

The landfill would be closed 10 years early if the nomination is approved, and that land would be turned into passive recreation space, suitable for golf or park land, Martin said.

A 50-acre hardwood forest would be left alone for conservation, he said, "to benefit the community."

Currently, the land is zoned for one dwelling unit per two to five acres. If Rainwater's nomination is approved, that could be increased to one to two units per acre. The residential development would be clustered, Martin said, to allow for a bigger buffer zone of open space around the homes, which would be built closer to Route 1.

Although the nomination is still in the early stages, Martin said some concerns have been voiced by the Mason Neck Association.

"They may vote to oppose the nomination," Martin said. An early vote shows that the association is divided and those in favor of the nomination hold a slight minority in the group.

"The ones who are in favor of the nomination live near the 50 acres of forest we want to preserve," Martin said. "The majority of people who are opposed to it say they think this type of mid-rise condos is out of keeping with the rest of the development in the area."

If the nomination is approved and the apartment buildings are established, the residents there will have one thing to look forward to, Martin said.

"The views of the bay up there are spectacular," he said. "It's a beautiful piece of property."

MCGUIRE WOODS HAS submitted two nominations on behalf of Christopher Land, LLC, one near Pohick Road and another just north of the Lorton Workhouse.

"We believe the current zoning is out of character with the rest of the neighborhoods around it," said Greg Riegle, a land-use attorney with McGuire Woods. "There are significant drainage issues in that area, and the only solution we see is a partnership with the community to remedy some of the storm water problems."

The land, located in the Burke Lake Community Planning Sector, is near the Newington Forest development, on Pohick Road near Hooes Road. A total of 13 one-acre parcels are included.

When a heavy rain falls, "runoff flows through the existing communities that were developed prior to the storm water regulations we have today," Riegle said. If the nomination is approved, the plan would include making improvements to existing drainage systems and "providing the infrastructure needed to correct the problem," he said.

The area is currently zoned for two to three dwelling units per acre and would be increased to allow between three and four dwelling units per acre, according to the nomination.

Adding more houses to the area may not cause an increase in the amount of impervious surface, which limits how much rainwater can be absorbed into the ground, Riegle said. "That may be debatable. We would be prepared to go above and beyond our responsibility to rectify the problem as part of the development."

Most of the homes in the Chapel Arms community are single family structures, he said, and if the nomination is approved, new homes built there would be of the same characteristic.

A resident of Chapel Arms for 30 years, Don Hartley said the nomination is "consistent" with the trend of development across Fairfax County.

"That's the case all around the Washington area," he said. "I haven't had any problems with it other than the same things everyone complains about, like traffic."

With a large church under construction across the street, Hartley said he doesn't have any concerns about the nomination.

"Development is happening all around us," he said. "We can't talk about having a problem with higher density when you look at all the houses they're building in Lorton by the old prison."

The other nomination Riegle and his staff have submitted on behalf of Christopher Land, LLC, may be deferred until March for consideration by the Mount Vernon APR task force, he said.

"We want to have more discussions with the community," Riegle said.

As submitted, the nomination would have called for higher density housing and a mixed use, residential and retail development near the intersection of Lorton and Old Ox roads, covering about 27 acres. Currently, the land is zoned for low-density housing, one unit per two to five acres. If the nomination is approved as submitted, the density would be significantly increased, allowing up to 450 units in apartment or townhouse-style buildings and some mixed use space.

Residents in the area, which is part of the Occoquan River Watershed, have expressed concern about the nomination because the proposed density was measured in Floor-Area Ratio, a term usually used for commercial development. The nomination calls for 2 percent of the land to be developed for office space, another 8 percent to be developed for retail, while the remaining 90 percent would be used for housing.

"We filed a nomination for a mixed use development in that area and we're looking at ways to address the concerns of the community," Riegle said. "Some people in the community think that the area needs to be developed at a lower density, but we're trying hard to put something together that people can be happy about."

IN THE HOLLYMEADE and Cavanaugh Crossing communities which border the land in the nomination, higher density development is the last thing residents want.

"When we purchased our home, the area was advertised as a low density dwelling," said Patty Klunder, a Hollymeade resident.

If a higher density level is approved, "it will affect our schools, our kids may have to go to classes in trailers," she said. "Will our roads be able to support that much extra traffic? How would it affect the flow of water in our community? When Hollymeade and Cavanaugh were built, the developer had to install a pump system for our two communities. There's no way it could handle more people," she said.

Still, Klunder said she has heard good things about Christopher Land as a developer.

"We're glad to hear they're taking our concerns into consideration," she said. "We just hope this means they're listening to us."

Several of the homeowners associations in the area, including the South County Federation and the Mount Vernon Coalition, have voted to oppose the nomination, she said.

"We cannot support the current plan. This area wasn't zoned for that kind of development," Klunder said. "I hope that they come up with an idea for a new plan in the future that would complement the current quality of life we have here."