Mary Scala tried to be pragmatic about the proposal that would at least double the number of houses in a section of her neighborhood. “I understand that neighborhoods change over time,” Scala told the Fairfax County Planning Commission on June 21.
But the change in front of her was too much. “This is the wrong development choice for the future of our neighborhood,” Scala said.
A developer, Christopher Land, had proposed changing the county’s Comprehensive Plan for about 13 acres along Pohick Road. The plan currently allows 1-2 houses per acre to be built on the land, but Christopher suggested that they should be permitted to be 3-4.
Christopher’s proposal came as part of Fairfax County’s review of its Comprehensive Plan. According to state law, every locality must review its plan every five years. Fairfax’s does this through the Area Plans Review process. Beginning last year, residents, developers and property owners in the Springfield, Mount Vernon, Mason, Lee and Braddock magisterial districts could submit proposals, known as nominations, to change the plan. There are no restrictions on what can be suggested.
The county’s Department of Planning and Zoning and a citizen task force then analyze the proposals. Often, proposals that are opposed by either county staff or the community are withdrawn. Others go on to the Planning Commission for a public hearing. Proposals rejected by the Planning Commission stop there. Proposals accepted by the commission go to the Board of Supervisors for an additional public hearing and final decision.
CHRISTOPHER’S PROPOSAL along Pohick Road was the most controversial remaining in the Mount Vernon district. Both county staff and the citizen task force oppose the change, but the developer pushed ahead.
“We believe that we can reasonably develop this property,” said Greg Riegle, attorney for the developer. Riegle noted that many neighbors in the area have problems with stormwater running onto their land. Christopher’s plan would involve creating a stormwater management system that would seek to correct this problem.
However, Riegle said that the system would be an expensive one, costing several hundred thousand dollars, and that Christopher would need the higher density in order to make the project profitable.
Most of the 10 speakers at the hearing were opposed to the project saying that it would be denser than the surrounding neighborhood. “This nomination … is simply wrong for my community,” said Keith Randall, a nearby resident.
As is standard in Area Plans Review cases, the Planning Commission deferred its decision to allow for additional time to study the nominations and to hear from the community.
The commission will conduct a “mark-up” session where it will discuss and decide on this, and all of the other nominations in all of the districts on Wednesday, July 26.