A public hearing and City Council action for a code variance requested by the Fairfax Swimming Pool, Inc., drowned in deeper issues at the Tuesday, June 13, meeting.
The City Council rapidly moved through many agenda items before things slowed down during the swimming pool action item. Fairfax Swimming Pool, located at 4200 Roberts Road, put in a request for subdivision variances so that it can create three lots out of its two currently owned lots. The goal is to sell two of the lots for the purpose of financing improvements to the existing facility. Two detached, single-family homes would be built on the sold properties, which are zoned R-3.
Councilmember Jeff Greenfield expressed his concern for the tree removal on the property. He also wanted to ensure neighbors were aware of the proposed project. He asked Michelle Coleman, the deputy director of Community Development & Planning, if her office had confirmed that neighbors had received proper notice. Coleman said notices were sent via first-class mail, however the office did not follow up to make sure each neighbor had received the notice. Greenfield said the nature of the project, turning a forested lot into two detached single-family homes, merits proper follow-ups to ensure neighbors can be a part of the planning and public hearing process.
“There are about three or four homeowners there who will now have to look at residential lots instead of trees,” said Greenfield. “Please make sure we reach out to these members at let them know.”
JAMES PATTESON, president of Fairfax Swimming Pool, presented council with his application requesting that the city relieve the pool’s obligation for curb, gutter and drainage improvements on both Roberts Road and Forest Avenue. He also asked that council to relieve the pool of the obligation to ensure the pavement width surfaces along the roads are at least 36 feet. The pool owners' reasoning for this request is so that it can sell the vacant lot, including a small portion of the pool’s occupied lot, in order to subdivide the property so it can sell it as two lots.
“Our plan is to tear out the whole pool and build a new facility,” said Patteson. “We’re trying to sell these two corner lots in order to finance the improvements to the existing pool [facility].”
Even though the action at the meeting was simply to allow for the relief of the two code requirements, council and community members quickly turned the discussion into a look at the big picture.
Patteson said that Roberts Road was constructed as a two-lane, ditch-section street, without curb and gutters on either side of the street. He said relief from this obligation would maintain the appearance of the road and character of the neighborhood. But some community members think the pool’s future improvement project will undermine the character of the neighborhood.
“This is emotional and important to us [the community],” said Michael Elston. “We beg you to say no to everything.”
Three neighbors spoke at the public hearing, and all of them said they recognized certain issues with living near the 50-year-old pool back when they purchased their homes. However, Elston said trees on the vacant lot provide a noise buffer to the neighboring homes and said if anything, buffers need to be added, not removed. He also said he has concern that the pool’s project will also increase its size, thus membership applications, something he said is unnecessary.
“We are concerned about that facility getting one inch bigger,” said Elston. “They are where they are, and they need to make it work.”
Patteson said the houses that will go up on the property will also provide noise buffers, but councilmembers decided to make sure the pool would be responsible for providing buffers, as well as preserving the trees there. Greenfield wrote an “on-the-fly” condition to the approval during a five minute recess ordered to allot him the time to do so.
The condition requires the pool to be responsible to come back to planning staff to ensure and provide that proper buffering and screening will exist on the sold property. “We’re going to the best of our ability try to create a win-win situation for the pool, and certainly the community,” said Mayor Robert Lederer.
David Ferry, a pool neighbor, said he appreciated what the council was trying to do with the amendment, but he added that the streets don’t have the capability to handle the growth potential. He hopes the council will impose parking restrictions at some point in the process, to at least prevent overcrowded streets if the project itself cannot be prevented.
Another neighbor, Joan Tolle, said she appreciated their efforts too, but wishes for some way to maintain the green area she looks out at everyday. She also said there are in fact some drainage issues during heavy rains, and the council agreed to have staff look more closely at that.
For Elston, it’s not enough. He likes the sound of children splashing in the pool all summer, but thinks the facility will see a dramatic increase in loud swim meets as a result of the project, something he said has already been happening more frequently.
THE COUNCIL approved the subdivision variances, adding the condition drafted by Greenfield to ensure proper buffering and tree preservation.
Another item inducing extended dialogue at the meeting came at the beginning of the work session agenda. Councilmembers discussed proposed sound walls for George Mason Boulevard, and Greenfield asked for more information to be provided to the council so it could make the right decision on the project.
"We're trying to build a wall for what we think is going to be a problem. We don't have concrete figures for what the problem is actually is going to be," said Greenfield. "It's spending money, and I don't take it lightly."
City staff agreed to redistribute a staff report giving more specific data as to what the issues are for the project, and the council decided to get back to the issue once enough information is provided.
Some other items discussed at the City Council's June 13 meeting and work session were the following:
* A contract award to the low-bidder, Arthur Construction Co., for an amount not to exceed $280,000. The money for concrete curb, gutter and sidewalk repairs, under the Capital Improvement Program, and construction is scheduled to begin before the overlaying of the city's streets.
* An authorization of funds for nondiscretionary expenditures that are projected to exceed the budget in the amount of $933,000, which will only decrease the city's general fund by $542,800 because of a federal reimbursement of $390,200.