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New Duplex in New Alexandria

Plan may call for a building that’s a bit too big.

The Fairfax County Planning Commission seems poised to approve a plan to build a duplex at the corner of I Street and Potomac Avenue in New Alexandria.

The existing house, owned by Kevin O’Neill, was damaged by flooding during Hurricane Isabel in 2003. Since the property is in a floodplain — in this case, that of the Potomac River — it requires approval of both the Board of Supervisors and the Board of Zoning Appeals.

O’Neill could have reconstructed his house within two years of the damage without going through the approval process, but would have had to rebuild the existing single family house.

An earlier version of the plan was rejected by the Mount Vernon Council of Citizens Associations because it did not comply with the state’s Chesapeake Bay Preservation Ordinance, said Planning Commissioner Earl Flanagan (Mount Vernon).

O’Neill revised his plan and now that it meets the legal requirements, the council has withdrawn its opposition, Flanagan said.

Flanagan seemed ready to recommend approving the plan during the commission’s June 28 meeting, when Commissioner Jim Hart (at large) advised him to wait.

Hart, who also sits on the Board of Zoning Appeals, noted that the proposal might be modified by that board, which would then require a new hearing on the plan at the Planning Commission.

Hart explained that the plan may meet the requirements for Board of Zoning Appeals approval under guidelines established by the Virginia Supreme Court. He also said that approval granted by the Board of Zoning Appeals could disturb only the minimum amount of land necessary to complete the project.

Hart said that the plan for this duplex is larger than others he has seen, so the Board of Zoning Appeals may require O’Neill to build a smaller house.

Rather than approving the current plan and then forcing O’Neill to go through the approval process again, the Planning Commission deferred its decision so that it can ensure that the approved plan will match whatever is ultimately approved by the Board of Zoning Appeals.

The Planning Commission deferred its decision until July 19. After the Planning Commission makes its recommendation, the plan will go to the Board of Supervisors for another public hearing and final decision.