Compromises on Rezoning Changes Density

Compromises on Rezoning Changes Density

Tom Sinclair is happy with life along Miller Drive off Beulah Street near Kingstowne. The rural landscape features a horse farm, oversized mailboxes and shade trees; but residents knew something was up when two new neighbors moved in, bought land and built houses with manicured lawns and "great rooms," which set them apart from the rest of the houses on the street.

Then they tried to rezone and build houses on the rest of their land.

"I got two neighbors. They want to do something so they can make some money," Sinclair said.

The land needed to be rezoned from the existing R-1/2, which means one house per acre and possibly two if they go through the county. The new owners wanted to rezone it to five to eight houses per acre but were turned down, as were a few other rezoning issues on Beulah Street in an effort to thwart overdevelopment in this part of the county. Sinclair said one Kingstowne was enough.

"I think he wants to do his own version of Kingstowne. He wants to put in townhouses. As a resident, I feel it's too high density," he said.

The homeowners did not answer the door for comment.

Supervisor Dana Kauffman (D-Lee), who is monitoring the applications of the other four landowners in this 2,500 acre plot of land, agrees with Sinclair.

"Most of the proposals are far too intense for the area. I don't want to repeat the situation we have with Lane Elementary," Kauffman said.

He noted another parcel on the street that the zoning task force turned down.

"They put in a proposal for R-20. The land-use committee said no. They [landowners] had visions of big bucks. They talked about apartments and stuff," Kauffman said.

Selling plots of land to developers may have been in many of the homeowners’ plans, but Jeff McKay, Kauffman's chief of staff, said that rezoning issues aren't a given.

"They can't assume anything. They all reference Kingstowne and Island Creek. It's an apples-and-oranges comparison," he said.

The rezoning decisions were not completely turned down like the one along Miller Drive. Most were a compromise. One area was proposed for three or four per acre and approved for two or three, and another along Windsor Avenue was proposed for five to eight per acre and approved at three or four.

"They're getting an increase in density, just not what they've asked for," McKay said.

With all the proposed rezoning applications, McKay calculated an additional 601 school-age children compared with 149 at the present levels. Construction has started on the Island Creek Elementary School, a few blocks south on Beulah Street.

"There comes a time when we have to say no to these things. Aesthetics is one thing; infrastructure is another," McKay said.

According to Marianne Gardner, in the Fairfax County Planning and Zoning Department, the land along Beulah is just in the "community phase" of the rezoning process and still needs to go before the planning commission and possibly the Board of Supervisors.

"It's not a foregone conclusion that a nomination will get approved, this level of approval is at the community level," she said.

Dave Price rents from a landowner off Beulah who was approached by developers, but once he found out he couldn't rezone it for as much as he wanted, the situation changed, and the price went up.

"He [landowner] doesn't need the money. He wasn't worried at all," Price said.

TRAFFIC is another concern. Beulah Street is the only access to this area and was already widened about 10 years ago. With every new house, there is an average of two cars. Although it doesn't automatically mean those cars will end up on the highway, people in the area are concerned about it.

"The traffic problem around here is bad enough, and it's getting worse," said Tony Lara, a Springfield resident who spends time around there.

Sinclair eyes another traffic light currently going in by Lane Elementary.

"How much more do we want? We're getting boxed in," he said.

Price's attitude was similar.

"There's enough cars on the road," he said.

SOUTH ON BEULAH Street, near the intersection with Telegraph Road, the Hilltop Driving Range sits on nearly 200 acres of land that borders both Beulah and Telegraph Road. Originally, the plan was to put in an 18-hole golf course, but it is being looked at again, according to landowner Clem Gailliot's attorney, Lynn Stroebel.

"We originally planned an 18-hole golf course. The economics have really changed," she said.

A nine-hole course is still part of the plan, but they are looking at housing and retail housed in a town-center motif. Four-story apartments and condominiums are part of the scenario. They are working on the comprehensive plan and haven't done anything about zoning yet. Presently the land is divided into R-1, one house per acre; I-3, which is industrial; and C-6, which is commercial.

"We really haven't decided on a number [of dwellings]. A large amount of that will still be open space," Stroebel said.

Landowner Clem Gailliot noted the feasibility of an 18-hole golf course, for which he had a marketing analysis done.

"We know that, based on a review of our marketing studies, a golf course is no longer a viable amenity. We're looking at a mixed-use, golf-course-oriented community," he said, which will include a town center he compared with Reston and 150 acres of open space.

"It's a business decision," he said.

There is a county golf course three miles north on Telegraph Road, called Greendale, that is full all summer and requires starting times on all weekends and evenings