George Armstrong says that a proposed development on Beulah Road needs to take into better account the surrounding neighborhood. “Just because they want 11 [houses] … doesn’t mean its going to be better for the community,” he told the Planning Commission on March 14.
The proposal, made by developer Sekas Homes, would tear down the three existing houses on 3.99 acres at 1838 Beulah Road. In their place would go 11 new houses.
Residents of the neighboring Hawthorne Estates Homeowners Association turned out to protest the proposal. They said that nine houses would be more in keeping with the existing area. Hawthorne estates is built at a density of abut 2.23 units per acre. The proposed development would be 2.75 per acre.
Additionally, the new houses will be much larger and on smaller lots, in keeping with current development trends. Residents of Hawthorne Estates say that their neighborhood should be given greater consideration. “Nine houses just seem to fit better,” said Jeff Anderson of Hawthorne Estates.
Charlie Hall, president of the Providence District Council, came to speak even though the development is in the Hunter Mill District. He said that he feared the development could become precedent setting. “We know our turn will come next,” Hall said.
He said that the proposal does not meet county criteria which call for a new development to fit in with the fabric of existing development. Not only is it more dense, but the houses are bigger which exaggerates the effect of the density, he said. “Because of the size, you need more breathing room.”
RESIDENTS ARE ALSO concerned with a potential increase in stormwater runoff since they are downhill, and issues like school overcrowding and loss of trees.
Brenda Noel, who along with her sisters owns the land being developed, said that choosing to develop it was difficult. She and her sisters noted that the proposed development falls with Comprehensive Plan guidelines of 2-3 houses per acre. “Change happens, people need homes to live in,” Noel said.
“It saddens us all, but the only decision we had was to sell,” said Cheryl Kidd, one of the sisters.
Residents are particularly skeptical of the plan to use infiltration trenches to manage stormwater. This technique has been in use since at least the early '90s. It is essentially a long ditch built at the edge of the property then filled with a porous substance which absorbs the water and channels it.
But neighbors are concerned that the ditch won’t work, and they are also fearful that if it fails at sometime in the future, they will have nowhere to turn for help in fixing the situation.
Engineering studies done by Sekas Homes, and an engineer hired by the homeowners, say that the trenches could work. Gerald Hish, the residents' engineer recommended some tweaks to the proposal, and said that if his recommendations are implemented the trenches should work.
George Sekas of Sekas homes agreed to make the changes.
He was taken aback at the opposition to the development, noting that he also lives in the neighborhood and will be easily recognized by area residents who are upset. “I can’t make a mistake,” he said. “I’m six-foot-five and I’m going to go to the Giant with all these neighbors.”
SEKAS STOOD on his record as a developer. He said he has built more than 300 homes within three miles of the site, and has never had a major problem. “Anybody, even after this rezoning process, is welcome to call me.”
He also pointed out the new amenities that the community will get, such as a sidewalk extending several hundred feet beyond the edge of the development, the tree save area and the cash contribution to the schools to offset the new students.
The Planning Commission deferred its decision on the proposal until March 21 in order to allow Sekas time to develop written versions of the commitments he made during the meeting.
After the Planning Commission decision, the proposal will go to the Board of Supervisors for another public hearing and final decision scheduled for March 26. To register to speak, call 703-324-3151.