Letter to the Editor: Opposition to Willow Run Development
Resident argues that the development would not benefit existing community.
Dear Planning Commission Members:
On behalf of the members of the Mason District Council, I am writing today to urge you to deny the application to rezone the Willow Run development from R to PDH zoning. This request is based on many factors including the negative effects of Planned Development Housing; the benefit to the County from the development in contrast with the detriment to the existing neighborhood; and environmental concerns.
Planned Development Housing is detrimental to Fairfax County
The premise which is always put forth by the County is that PDH is more beneficial than standard R-type zoning because you win with the trade-off. The existing neighborhood gives up lesser density, but gets buffers (that won’t hide towering new houses on tiny lots); green space (which consists of a few trees and a bench); restored streams (which is really cutting back bamboo and does not solve the stormwater nightmare that you know is coming); an HOA that gets to run the stormwater system (which is directing the water down to the existing homes), and that makes sure people are parking in their garages because there is not enough space anywhere else because of the sheer number of houses; and a walking path. With R-type zoning you get nothing, if you are to believe the County. But, in fact, there are requirements and regulations under R zoning. For instance, the stormwater must be improved so as to not make the runoff worse than what it already is. Further, the developer would certainly plant trees and other vegetation to mitigate stormwater runoff as well as to make that property attractive. Natural buffers would be created by the required larger lot sizes. Certainly a developer is not going to destroy a piece of property as the County suggests because the developer would actually want to attract home buyers.
In addition, I would imagine that the neighbors would rather pitch in and donate a few benches and trees than have so many houses crammed onto a small piece of land; that they would rather take their chances with far less impermeable space and the regulations which are in place with regards to stormwater runoff; that they would rather not exchange the severe alterations of their neighborhood “fabric” for so-called stream restoration and that they would want to give up the mighty proffers for less traffic and less parking headaches. But be assured that someone will benefit from this rezoning application being approved.
The County will benefit from the development, but the existing neighborhood will not
Cash proffers are, “a form of conditional zoning in Virginia…. voluntarily offered by a developer or property owner that limit or qualify how the property subject to the conditions will be used or developed.*” In the case of this development, the cash proffers (“donations”) will be paid to the Board of Supervisors and transferred to various entities in the County if the rezoning is approved: $75, 471 donated to the Park Authority; $140,670 donated to the school system; ½ of 1% of the value of the houses paid to the county for “affordable housing Trust Fund; a bus shelter for Little River Turnpike; and $2,250 for a traffic light already in place. The bigger picture, in fact, is that in the 2010-2011 fiscal year, the County benefited to the tune of $4,193,562, with an additional $1,762,690 pledged by the end of the fiscal year. *(Report on Proffered Cash Payments and Expenditures by Virginia’s Counties, Cities and Towns 2010-2011).
These cash proffers therefore benefit the County, but this money will not be used for the existing neighborhood being affected by this dense infill. There is no way to know exactly how the government will spend or waste this money on the backs of the people who thought they paid for R-2 zoning and are now being invaded by another 29 houses.
When a developer puts a large number of homes on a relatively small parcel of land as is the case here, they are also inviting environmental problems. They are ripping out the existing eco system and replacing it with a vast amount of impermeable space which will cause significant stormwater runoff. In the case of Willow Run, due to public pressure, the developers have moved to a more eco-friendly, dry pond as part of the mitigation, in an attempt to stop the inevitable stormwater issues; however, it looks as if it may cause encroachment into a Resource Protection Area (RPA) (as defined by the Chesapeake Bay Preservation Ordinance) in order to achieve this. Should the Planning Commission deny rezoning to PDH-4, certainly we would be able to avoid disturbing this environmentally sensitive area.
Further, it is hypocritical to say that it would be acceptable to overwhelm the land and the stormwater system with 29 houses and to disturb this RPA in order to do so, while at the same time the County won’t consider an access point to Randolph Road because of the Chesapeake Bay Conservation Act. So, in essence, the county does not object to destroying the land, provided that the destruction furthers their “increased density at all costs” infill agenda. The environment is only trotted out as an excuse by the county to deny improvements to better the lives of the existing neighborhoods, which will have to cope with the increased density the county is forcing upon them.
Due to all the above listed concerns, as well as the numerous one I have previous put forth, we encourage you to reject this application for rezoning.
President, Wilburdale Civic Association
Land Use Chair, Mason District Council