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Votes

Not the End for Rocky Gorge

Council action could turn other way at Sept. 26 meeting, leaving chance for approval of proposed development.

Under Robert’s Rules of Order, a councilmember who voted against the Rocky Gorge development on Sept. 12 could reintroduce the application at the very next meeting, on Tuesday, Sept. 26.

The parliamentary rules read that a member who voted with the prevailing side, in this case to deny the Rocky Gorge condominium development on the Stafford property, can “bring back for further consideration a motion which has already been voted on … to permit correction of hasty, ill-advised or erroneous action.”

Open space advocate and Mosby Woods resident Spencer Cake hopes that will not happen.

“I praise Jeff [Greenfield] for his swing vote [on Sept. 12],” said Cake. “But it’s still on the table for planning purposes.”

The denied application would have allowed 123, age-restricted condominium units to be built on the Stafford property, located on the north side of Route 50, between Eaton Place and the Sunoco Station, in the Highway Corridor Overlay District.

Councilmember Jeff Greenfield made a motion at that meeting to push back voting on the Rocky Gorge application until the Sept. 26 meeting because he said he felt the council did not have sufficient enough time to go over the details. The motion died when nobody seconded it, and Greenfield ended up voting against the application because he said he had concerns that the master plan and the open space parcels issue have not been worked out yet.

Greenfield said all developers should be held to the same standard, and would not feel comfortable bringing something back if the issues hadn't been addressed. He said he doesn't want this to be a "bait-and-switch" situation where council does one thing when there's a room full of people, and another when the public isn't there, such as reopening it when people least expect it.

"I'm not totally motivated to be the one to go back at this again," said Greenfield.

Michael Stafford, who owns the property in partnership with his brothers, said he would talk more with the developers, KMRG of Fairfax City, LLC, and his brothers about what their next step might be since the denial. He said they’re convinced the property has value and would like to see it developed.

“We haven’t really exhausted all the possibilities on this one yet,” said Stafford.

AS FAR AS the city is concerned, “council took action to deny that request,” said Michelle Coleman, of the city’s department of planning and zoning. Unless a councilmember does reintroduce it at the Sept. 26 meeting, they cannot come back with the Rocky Gorge development request for one full year.

“They can certainly propose something else that they think would be more in tune with the city,” said Coleman.

One of the attorneys who represented the applicant, Elizabeth Baker, said she has no indication that a reintroduction would occur, but did recognize it would be possible under Robert’s Rules of Order.

“The council’s action is pretty clear,” said Baker.

Baker pointed out what she said would have been many benefits to the city with the approval of the development. Baker said the development would provide senior housing, which has been one of the city’s top priorities for years. The eight acres of open space that the developers would give back to the city at no cost would have been a huge benefit as well, she said. She also said the amount of traffic produced would be lower than commercial and retail alternatives, including an annual positive fiscal benefit of $300,000.

“We were astounded that they wouldn’t embrace this proposal,” said Baker.

Councilmember Scott Silverthorne said he is skeptical that business traffic is higher than residential. The eight acres of land that Rocky Gorge would give back to the city, he said, is practically worthless. It’s on a floodplain and can’t be developed anyway, said Mayor Robert Lederer, so regardless of who owns it, it would have to sit there untouched. The city therefore would always enjoy those eight acres as open space unless someone tackled through a hefty amount of land-use applications allowing for the land to be developed, something councilmembers aren't likely to approve.