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Clubhouse Conundrums

Two clubhouse proposals discussed at South County Federation.

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Keith Martin, of Sack, Harris and Martin, discusses plans for a 5,000-square foot community center in Lorton Station during the South County Federation meeting Tuesday night.

Two different types of clubhouses received similar reactions from the South County Federation during its meeting Tuesday night, Nov. 13.

First, the Federation heard a description of a clubhouse it had already approved, to be included in a new set of medical offices in Lorton Station.

Original plans for the clubhouse were drawn up before the Federation had a place to meet, and it was designed to make meeting space available to the entire Lorton community, explained Keith Martin, on behalf of Sack Harris and Martin, developer of the property.

The 5,000-square foot space was originally planned for the second floor of the building when it was expected to be a "slab construction," but revisions to the plan would now have the community space on the second floor, in the middle of medical offices.

"It would be a logistical nightmare to find that much room on the second floor," Martin said. "We went out of our way to design this new space, which is a room of its own with its own bathroom and access to the elevator and lobby."

The concern of the Federation, said vice president Tim Rizer, was not where the room was, but the ability of the developer to change the location of a proffered room without any community input.

Tom Howard, an assistant to Supervisor Gerry Hyland (D-Mount Vernon), shared a board matter Hyland had written that requests the conditions of the proffer be examined to determine whether the community should have been consulted before the change was made.

"Gerry is going to ask the county executive and the county attorney to look at the way the proffer was written and see if the community needs to have the chance to comment," Howard said.

LATER IN the meeting, another developer proposing changes to another previously-approved clubhouse heard another round of challenges and objections.

Lynne Strobel, an attorney speaking on behalf of JPI, said her client wants to increase the size of a clubhouse planned in the Laurel Highlands community from 1,800 square feet to 5,500 square feet, to provide more amenities for the residents of the neighborhood.

The clubhouse would be built in front of a 289-unit apartment complex, the third part of the neighborhood that also includes single-family attached and detached homes. A parking structure that has already been built will provide 618 parking spots, or 2.1 spots per apartment.

To try and make the larger clubhouse more attractive to the Federation, Strobel included a condition that would require any group larger than 12 people to get prior permission from the property manager to use the clubhouse.

Federation member Shean Robinson said that, as a resident in a neighboring community, he is concerned that regardless of any use permits they try to administer, traffic in his neighborhood will be negatively affected by the clubhouse.

"We didn't support the plan for this community when it was first submitted and this amendment will not make it any better," Robinson said.

In fact, the original plan for this part of Laurel Highlands did not include a clubhouse, but did include language referring to the possibility of building one some day.

"This development, like it or not, has been approved by the county," Strobel said. "It will be built. All we're trying to do is provide better opportunities for people to stay on site and better serve those residents."

Robinson said those amenities will not benefit his community and may cause more problems.

"But one day, you may have trash outside your community, which is not an amenity for our residents," said Peter Rosen of JPI, the developer which owns the property.

Freddy Lewis, another resident who lives near the planned community, said his concern is with the lack of sufficient roads.

"There is only one main artery through the whole community," Lewis said. "Regardless of whether people stay in their community to use the fitness center, they're still going to be leaving their homes at the same time in the morning and coming home at the same time at night."

No indication was given that the expanded clubhouse would expand traffic, Rizer argued.

The Federation eventually voted to oppose the permit for the expansion, by a margin of 16 to 10. A public hearing has been scheduled at the Dec. 6 meeting of the Fairfax County Planning Commission.

Also at the meeting, Jennifer Aument and Tim Young from Transurban gave a presentation about the proposed HOT/HOV lanes that will be added to I-95, starting as early as 2009. The major construction project is designed to help ease congestion on area roadways by not only providing extended HOT and HOV lane service from Dumfries to Tysons Corner, but also to foster more carpools and allow for bus service on the Capital Beltway.

Aument apologized for the abbreviated presentation and promised to come back for a more in-depth discussion at a later date.

Continuing with its focus on transportation, the Federation also approved two Adopt a Highway locations, on Lorton Road from Windermere Hill Drive to Richmond Highway, and on Richmond Highway from Lorton Road to Gunston Road.