Mihail Balasa summed up the opposition to a new assisted living facility on Blake Lane. “I do not oppose the project in general. I oppose the size of the project,” he told the Planning Commission on March 23.
A dozen Oakton residents came to speak about the proposed facility. Sunrise Assisted Living had operated a facility on Blake Lane, just South of Chain Bridge Road. The site was first granted permission to be used as a “Convalescent Home” in 1957.
Since then it has been expanded several times, and was the first Sunrise facility. It is currently empty.
Sunrise wants to remove the existing building and its accessory buildings, and combine the property with an adjoining property which is developed with a single house. The existing house would remain. Sunrise would then construct a 234,000 square foot, 122-unit assisted living facility (123 including the existing house), on a 7.4-acre lot. The new building would be three-to-four stories tall.
If the property were to be developed with a traditional, residential development, the Comprehensive Plan would allow for about 35 houses. County policy allows senior housing to be developed at a greater density than would normally be allowed under the plan, noted Greg Riegle, attorney for Sunrise.
Even with the additional houses, Riegle said, the traffic impacts would be minimal. Traffic calculations presume that seniors do not make as many rush hour trips as younger adults. The projected number of car trips from this site is roughly the same as would be expected from the traditional development, Riegle said.
Merle Russ, who lives near the development, disagreed. The presumption is based on the idea that seniors don’t work, Russ said, and the logic is flawed in this case. “A condo residence that is going to cost $700,000 is not going to be home to two non-working people,” he said.
OTHER NEIGHBORS echoed Russ’ concerns pointing out that the nearby intersection at Blake Lane and Chain Bridge Road is already failing. Others questioned the character of the development, noting that the area is developed with townhouses and single-family detached houses.
“We are not a community of condos and apartments,” said Diane Heinz, another nearby neighbor.
Other residents supported the proposal. The Barden Oaks Homeowners Association was generally supportive of the project, said Frank Noone, of the association. “They are good neighbors,” Noone said.
He said that his association had met with Sunrise repeatedly. “They not only listened to our issues, they modified their plans to meet our concerns,” Noone said.
To partially address the traffic issues, Sunrise will work with county staff to develop strategies they might use to mitigate additional trips, such as shuttle buses to nearby shopping or Metro.
Sunrise may make other changes to construction hours and to tree plantings along the edges of the property, in response to neighborhood concerns, Riegle said.
The Planning Commission deferred its decision until May 3.