Residents of the proposed Herndon Estates subdivision would end up making dozens of U-turns on Dranesville Road every day, and Bob Shoemaker, for one, does not like the idea.
“It’s already a dangerous road and it will only become more dangerous,” said Shoemaker, president of the Herndon Chase Homeowner’s Association.
The Herndon Estates development is proposed to be 32 houses on 13 acres wedged in between the Town of Herndon and the Herndon Chase neighborhood and opposite Herndon High school. A stream — an unnamed tributary of the Folly Lick Branch — runs across the property, making much of the land off-limits to development.
Seven existing houses on the property, including numerous structures in environmentally sensitive areas, will be removed. All the new construction will be placed around the edges of the property, away from those areas.
However, the proposed access to the site occurs where there is no break in the median along Dranesville Road. Residents of the new development will need to make U-turns to go home, if they are traveling north on Dranesville Road. They would also need to make a U-turn after leaving the development, if they want to go north on Dranesville Road.
Greg Riegle, attorney for the developer Christopher Management, said the development is projected to generate “less than 10” U-turns during the morning rush hour, and “slightly more” during the afternoon rush hour. As Fairfax County builds more and more divided highways, Riegle said, residents will begin to adjust to the need for more U-turns.
Easing the problem for existing residents, and simultaneously complicating it for the new development, the developer has made a commitment to place “No U-Turn” signs at Bennett and Ridgegate roads, the first intersection in either direction.
As a result of the U-turns, the Fairfax County Planning and Zoning asked Christopher to keep the development at the low-end of the two-to-three houses per acre density range. The proposed development’s density is 2.43 units per acre.
Shoemaker also believes the new houses will be incompatible with the existing development. The new houses will be between 15 and 20 feet from each other. “Visually, I don’t think it’s much different than townhomes would be,” he said.
Former Dranesville District Planning Commissioner Judy Downer agreed. The developer is asking to classify the area as one of the so-called “P-districts” a type of zoning which allows generally smaller setbacks than do standard zones. Downer noted that most houses will require waivers to meet that standard. “Twenty-two of the 32 houses do not conform even to the P-District setbacks,” she said.
Riegle said that the development, although not identical, will be compatible with the existing neighborhood. The houses along the northern edge, which abuts Herndon Chase will have larger setbacks. The houses along the southern edge abut Chestnut Grove Cemetery.
Planning Commissioner Nancy Hopkins (Dranesville) was sympathetic to the residents. “I do share some of their concerns in regards to transportation and density in an environmentally sensitive area,” she said.
The commission deferred its decision until July 13.