Telegraph Road May See Lower Density

Telegraph Road May See Lower Density

Land along Telegraph Road between the Beltway and Beulah Street may soon be downplanned if a proposed comprehensive plan amendment is approved.

The Planning Commission was set to move on the proposal at its May 9 meeting but deferred a decision until May 23. The Board of Supervisors will hold a public hearing on the amendment at its June 3 meeting.

The proposal is the result of a special study conducted jointly by a special task force and staff from the Fairfax County Department of Planning and Zoning. The study was commissioned by Supervisor Dana Kauffman (D-Lee), in whose district the affected portion of Telegraph Road lies.

THE REPORT OUTLINES three concerns about the current planning on the Telegraph Road corridor.

The first is the presence of environmentally sensitive land in the area. The road runs alongside stream valleys, such as Pike Branch, Dogue Creek and Piney Run, that are designated Chesapeake Bay Resource Protection Areas or Fairfax County Environmental Quality Corridors. Those environmental features "constrain future development," according to the report.

The second concern motivating the downplanning is the presence of poor soils that are prone to slipping, sinking or swelling. These shifting soils could potentially harm the foundations of nearby buildings.

Finally, there are safety concerns about commuters turning onto Telegraph Road from new subdivisions, said Fred Selden from county planning.

In light of the current VDOT funding crisis, there is little chance that Telegraph Road will be widened, as outlined in the current Comprehensive Plan, said Kauffman.

The report focused on 22 parcels along the corridor. A total of 509 dwelling units are authorized in those parcels under the current plan. The task force and county staff differed slightly in their recommendations for the area, with the task force proposing a maximum density of 429 dwelling units and staff proposing 434 units. There are currently 49 dwelling units on the parcels.

"I RECOGNIZE the brutal reality that the funding isn't there and isn't going to be around any time soon," said Kauffman. "This is looking at a corridor and recognizing that because of gross inadequacies in state funding, we have to adjust our plans on the local level."

Kauffman added that he would be reluctant to see new development along Telegraph Road until services such as roads and schools had been built to accommodate the growth. "I don't want to recreate the same craziness I see with trailers," he said.

"Residential growth should be checked until facilities catch up," said Lee District Planning Commissioner John Kelso, who chaired the task force. This planning method, known as the "levels of surface" method, has been successfully used in Loudoun County, according to Kelso. "Until service levels reach that state you shouldn't plan it," he said.

NOT EVERYONE, however, agrees.

"The special study recommendation is a mere glimpse at a larger problem," former Planning Commissioner Glen Ovrevick told the Planning Commission at their May 9 public hearing. The real problem, according to Ovrevick is the high volume of traffic that will use South Kings Highway to get to Route 1 once Van Dorn Street is extended to Telegraph Road. Ovrevick said traffic from the Fairfax County Parkway headed towards National Airport or the Wilson Bridge will cut through South Kings Highway, overburdening the two-lane road.

"We would like to see residential stem designation on South Kings Highway and Telegraph Road to discourage commuter traffic, pushing them to existing roads," he said. If those traffic problems were addressed, he said, "the need for changing the density would perhaps be removed. If [the task force] looked at the problem, the density wouldn't factor in."

Ovrevick also said reducing the density along Telegraph Road would harm people along the corridor. A lower density designation would bring down the properties' sale price. "People buy and sell property on the basis of what they can do with property," said Ovrevick, who owns two lots in the affected parcels. "Dana [Kauffman]'s magic slow growth ideas hit the pocketbooks of legitimate retirement plans for these people."

"Sabers are rattling. There were rumors of lawsuits," said Kauffman. Ovrevick "was wanting more density so he could get more money," he added.