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Bank-Pad Proves Controversial

Controversial issue heads to Planning Commission

A proposal to put a bank-pad site in Centreville’s Sully Station Shopping Center was barely approved by a local land-use group and is opposed by Fairfax County staff. So what happens to it this week at the Planning Commission is anyone’s guess.

LAND-USE ATTORNEY David Gill gave an update, March 20, to the West Fairfax County Citizens Association (WFCCA) Land-Use Committee. He represents the shopping center's landlord, JBG Rosenfeld, who’s asking that the shopping center's proffered conditions be amended to allow a drive-in bank.

The 3,650-square-foot pad is envisioned in front of the former Frank's Nursery building (now Ace Hardware), and the bank would have one drive-through lane.

Some new retail stores are also proposed — small shops such as coffee or bagel places — for 16,200 square feet total, including the bank pad. They’d go in the old, Frank's, outdoor-nursery area.

“We met with the Sully Station Homeowners Association, and they feel it could work at the shopping center with community-serving uses,” said Gill. “But the [homeowners] board didn’t.”

The plan included a pedestrian pathway to reach the other stores in the shopping center. And now, at the residents’ request, Gill said a second pedestrian connection will be added.

Also proposed is an interparcel connection for vehicles that’s favored by Supervisor Michael R. Frey (R-Sully). However, Gill said he didn’t want to see that connection “elevated to a cut-through road. If VDOT deems it unsafe two years after it opens, then it’ll be closed.” He also noted that the post office has agreed to let more crosswalks be added.

WFCCA's Jim Neighbors, who lives in Sully Station, said most of the people at the homeowners meeting didn’t want an interparcel connection. However, he said, “They wanted broad sidewalks with benches [in the retail area]. And the bank should have excellent landscaping.”

“IF APPROVED, when would this start construction?” asked WFCCA’s Scott Miller. “It takes a year to get through site plans,” replied Gill. PNC [Bank] would do the construction and take four months.”

He said the project would also include utility work and grading, as well as 90 days to re-stripe the area and re-lay out some curbing. And the work would be phased in.

“I still oppose the bank and I don’t know how it’ll fit in with the other uses there,” said WFCCA’s Chris Terpak-Malm. “But I like the wide sidewalks. [However], I see a lot of traffic conflicts with the lunchtime traffic in this area.” She then suggested a single, yellow line be painted by the median, and Gill said it’s a good idea. Terpak-Malm also recommended a curb-opening be created to get, for example, to the Safeway from the gas station.

Then Craig Trumbull, president of the Sully Station Homeowners Association, spoke. “The [homeowners] board is against it, 4-3,” he said. “We’re in favor of the retail there, but not the bank. There’s already a bank there. A second one wouldn’t serve the local, Sully Station neighborhood, as much as it would the Westfields business community.”

“I’m also skeptical about the way the exterior will look,” he continued. “And, given that the [nearby] office park is only at 30-percent capacity [now], when it’s built out, this will be very busy. This site isn’t set up to accommodate a lot of traffic heading out toward Stone Road, and I think the senior-citizen pedestrians living behind the shopping center [at Forest Glen] will be in danger from the traffic there.”

Gill said the building exterior has to match the architecture of the buildings already existing in the shopping center. And he noted that PNC constructs all its new banks as LEEDS-certified – environmentally friendly and energy efficient.

Terpak-Malm reminded the WFCCA that county staff is still against this project, and Miller said it’s because of the still-unsolved traffic problems. Sully District Planning Commissioner Ron Koch asked about possibly moving the bank-pad site closer to Westfields Boulevard, but Gill said that wasn’t a good idea.

TERPAK-MALM proposed the WFCCA approve the retail uses, but not the stand-alone bank. “You could put a bank in the strip-mall part,” she said, and Miller seconded her motion. But, advised Gill, “Some of the improvements are tied to the construction of the bank.”

WFCCA’s Dorothy Steranka said she liked the plan as presented. WFCCA’s Carol Hawn said she’d “like to see the architecturals” before the buildings go up. But, she added, “I really do like the pedestrian changes. Maybe some additional speed humps in the back would cut down the traffic [there].”

“It’s not 100-percent perfect,” acknowledged WFCCA’s Mary Coyle. However, she said, “I do like the plan.” Gill said some fixes could be made, but the applicant “would have to consider the financial impacts of them.” Responded Coyle: “People aren’t cheap, so do the fixes.”

The WFCCA then voted 3-2 to recommend approval of the project, with Hawn abstaining. The matter went to the Planning Commission, this Wednesday, April 4, and at press time, it was scheduled to render its decision.