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Votes

Taking What It Can Get

City Council approves residential development out of distaste for the by-right alternative.

A by-right proposal for a residential subdivision scared some City of Fairfax councilmembers enough to cause them to vote for a less than perfect subdivision in its place.

The project, the Preserve at Great Oaks, located near the intersection of Ridge Avenue and Old Lee Highway, doesn’t have a green light just yet though and several public hearings and approvals remain. In the mean time, the developers can proceed with paperwork and engineering studies, but they must remain cautious of impending community and council concerns.

"I hope this is something that we can all get behind as this continues to evolve," said Greenfield.

The city requested that the applicant file for the rezoning and variances because it strongly opposed, along with neighboring residents, the by-right subdivision for the property that is currently pending before the Planning Commission, said Jack Blevins, division chief with the city’s Community Development and Planning Department.

The 10-lotl, by-right design would include the removal of a significant stand of trees and the construction of an extensive system of tall retaining walls, according to the city’s staff report. The city referred to those aspects of the project as "offensive characteristics," both to the neighbors and to the future residents of the development. Blevins said the heavy grading required for the site, along with the removal of trees and soil and the construction of the retaining walls caused everyone to see that "a better solution should exist."

The application before Council at its Tuesday, May 22, meeting would replace the by-right proposal with 15 single-family detached homes, on smaller lots. More than an acre of forested open space would be dedicated to the City of Fairfax. Plans include a new public street, a new private street and a storm water management pond. Emergency vehicle access would only be available from Ridge Avenue.

The homes would be about 38 feet wide, and as long as 56 feet, each equipped with a two-car garage. Tiny backyards concerned Councilmember Joan Cross, along with the storm water management on the site.

But Patrick Mulhern, one of the project’s engineers of the Engineering Groupe, Inc., out of Woodbridge, said the storm water management pond would grab about 80 percent of storm water. Through the new application’s lowering of the land, he said the volume and velocity of the runoff would decrease.

"When your engineers review this, we have to demonstrate that post-development [storm water management] will be less or equal to pre-development.

Walt Wagner, a neighboring resident to the proposed development, said the negations seem to have resulted in a significant improvement. He thanked the mayor and councilmembers for acting independently "in the interests of our community."

This application proposal has quite a bit of history, said Lynne Strobel, the attorney representing the applicant, D.R. Horton, Inc. A previous applicant wanted to build 18 townhouses on a portion of the property in the late 1980s. The City Council denied that proposal on June 27, 1989. Following that denial, the new applicant proposed nine townhouses, which council denied on Dec. 11, 2001. The applicant then tried to obtain approval for a design that required variances from the subdivision ordinance — a proposal that would have required the removal of mature forests and construction of extensive retaining walls, according to the city staff report.

The applicant feels it has met council’s previous concerns, and hopes the fourth time is the charm.

"It is a viable plan," said Strobel.