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Votes

Housing on Church Site?

Plan calls for as many as 210 units on United Christian Parish property.

The Reston Planning and Zoning Committee voted on Monday night to endorse an out-of-turn plan amendment for a proposed development at the site of the United Christian Parish on Colts Neck Road. The Atlantic Realty Companies project would include at most 210 units in two buildings connected by a bridge.

The buildings’ height varies, as parts range from three to five stories high. "The design changes are a result of conversations with the [Reston Association] Design Review Board," said Mark Looney, an attorney representing Atlantic Realty on the project. The varying rooflines would break up the mass of the buildings. George Dove, an architect with WDG Architecture, said residents of Hunters Crossing cluster — adjacent to the proposed development — also shaped the development’s design. "We’ve been trying to be extremely responsive to [concerns of] Hunters Crossing residents," said Dove.

Atlantic Realty is negotiating the land purchase from United Christian Parish, as the church seeks to relocate. "We are purchasing directly from the church. We haven’t closed yet," said Adam Schulman, partner with Atlantic Realty.

While members of the Reston Planning and Zoning (P&Z) Committee supported the project’s design, some of them had questions regarding enhancements for pedestrian traffic that would move between the development and Hunters Woods Village Center. "If folks are walking from here to Hunters Woods, how are they getting there?" asked Richard Eckhardt. He added that the tunnel option under Colts Neck Road would not work because it would take the pedestrians away from the village center, have them go through a tunnel and walk up a hill towards Hunters Woods.

"The tunnel under Colts Neck borders on useless," said Arthur Hill, P&Z vice chair. "It’s dark, it’s damp," he said.

Bruce Wright, another P&Z member, said it is likely the pedestrians would cross the street at the direct connection from the development to the village center. "It is a direct line across the street," said Wright. "It is a good location for a pedestrian-activated light," he said.

Eckhardt’s and Wright’s comments evolved into another P&Z recommendation — seven members voting for, two members voting against it and one abstaining — for developers to provide an at-grade pedestrian access across Colts Neck Road to the village center.

Frank de la Fe, Hunter Mill District’s planning commissioner, said he thought it was inappropriate to make suggestions on a specific pedestrian plan for a plan amendment. Some members of the P&Z agreed. "We got to be careful about making this suggestion in a plan amendment," said Rob Walker.

Looney also warned that the committee might not want to be too specific in a plan amendment recommendation. He said VDOT would control issuing a permit for any at-grade crossing. If the plan language only recommends an at-grade crossing, and VDOT rejects it, then the community might not have an option for other crossings. "For your own flexibility," said Looney. He added that Fairfax County is planning to install sidewalks on the western side of Colts Neck Road.

"I don’t think we should be bashful about what we recommend," said Eckhardt.

Schulman said a shuttle would serve the development within a 2-mile radius, which would help move the development’s residents around neighboring destinations. A number of the units would be set aside as affordable housing for people who are 62 or older. Looney said a large majority of the parking would go underground — submerged from the front and somewhat visible from the back because of the slanted topography — with some parallel parking on the street.

Steve Cerny, P&Z member, commended the features of the development. "Architecturally it’s a premium design," he said. "Affordable housing set aside is good, I hope it holds. It shows affordable housing can be done in buildings with underground garages," he said.

The Fairfax County Planning Commission is scheduled to hear the case for the plan amendment on Wednesday night, July 25. De la Fe said none of the recommendations or discussions about pedestrian crossings, setbacks and environmental buffers would be discussed at The Planning Commission until October. The county’s staff is expected to have a report on the development proposal some time in September.