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Civic Associations Rally Against Infill Development in Mason District

Both the Wilburdale Civic Association in Annandale and the Ravenwood Park Civic Association are speaking out against proposed plans for their neighborhoods.

Residents from the Wilburdale Civic Association in Annandale and the Ravenwood Park Citizens' Association in Falls Church and neighboring communities gathered Tuesday evening at Peace Lutheran Church in Lincolnia to voice their opposition to infill development plans targeting their communities.

Infill development is the process of developing vacant or under-used parcels within existing areas that are already largely developed.

“We’re talking about the destruction of the characters of our neighborhoods,” said Kate Sriwardene, president of the Wilburdale Civic Association in Annandale, who is opposed to infill development with planned development housing. “I don’t want other people coming in, buying the property, and rezoning this and changing the property values.” 

Both communities offered presentations to the audience with detailed maps and information to argue their points about the negative effects their community will face with the zoning changes.

Stormwater Concerns in Wilburdale

The Wilburdale Civic Association’s fight against infill development at the 2.17-acre Cornejo property at 4954 Sunset Lane began eight months ago. Sriwardene said the property is also up for planned development housing (PDH) rezoning and the main concern for Wilburdale residents is stormwater, which is becoming an increasing problem in their community.

“Ultimately, that water is not going to end up in the Cornejo development; it’s going to end up in our backyards,” said Sriwardene. In addition, she said four potential homeowners (who would be part of a separate homeowners association or HOA) would be responsible for maintaining the storm-water retention ditches that affect the Wilburdale community. Back in December, the community was told the developer would improve the system, but they’re still experiencing significant runoff that is likely to affect their homes and backyards, similar to the damage done to the Annandale Acres community off of Backlick Road.

Kathleen McDermott, a real estate attorney, spoke of her success in fighting a previous plan to develop the Cornejo property. She urged residents to educate themselves; learn the county ordinance and state laws associated with the development and question what they read and highlight inaccuracies.

“Don’t assume that they know the law,” said McDermott.

The Cornejo plan is scheduled to go before the Fairfax County Planning Commission on Feb. 23.

Ravenwood’s Fight Against Greater Density

Ravenwood Park Citizens’ Association residents are opposed to allowing greater density on the Peace Valley Lane property on the 1.89-acre lot at 3236 Peace Valley Lane, said Carol Turner, association co-president. The main concern for their community is the valuation of the land and declining property value, should the plans move forward.

The current proposal allows a change in zoning so the developer can build eight single-family homes. 

“How [the homes] would fit on less than two acres is a mystery to us all,” said Co-President John Iekel.

Thanks to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request by the association, Turner said they were able to view the plans, but found the report to be “very muddled.” The community is trying to follow the spirit of the plan, said Iekel, but residents don’t wish to introduce greater density and higher traffic or speeds. “We’d have to live with the consequences.” 

Some residents have met with the developers, but Iekel said the plan largely ignores key issues that are important to the community such as storm-water management, drainage, soil integrity, and other issues such as old infrastructure. Turner said the developer did not go through the Area Plans Review (APR) process, which occurs when the county updates its Comprehensive Plan every five years.

”These are issues that have to be studied before you say ‘OK, put in eight houses,’” said Turner.

Although they’re opposed to the current amendment, Iekel said the community’s not opposed to all development.

“We’d really like to see development that follows the existing zoning and see something architecturally responsive to the interests of the people in the neighborhood,” he said. Ideally, Turner said she’d like to see a cul-de-sac and five houses built on the Peace Valley Lane lot.

Previously, Ravenwood Park Citizens’ Association fought against Mason District Supervisor Penny Gross’ amendment to the plan by attending a zoning meeting en masse, but the economic downturn caused the developer to abandon their plans. Last year, a new proposal to change the zoning for the Peace Valley Property and build eight single-family townhouses brought the issue back to the forefront.

Other issues include whether a homeowners association (HOA) will need to be created for the newly developed areas due to the way the land is divided. That division also leads to concerns about the traffic. Based on a map shown during the presentation, a portion of the land near Leesburg Pike is privately owned. The opposite side of the lot is where the Ravenwood community is located. Since there is no light at the intersection of Leesburg Pike and Peace Valley Lane, Turner says there’s the possibility of traffic congestion if more people were to begin using that road. Students who walk to and other pedestrians could also be affected by an increase in traffic.

The next step for Ravenwood is to send a rebuttal to the Mason District Land Use Committee and find out why the developer did not complete the APR process, said Turner.

Both communities urged residents to attend next week’s Mason District Land Use Committee meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 24 at the and the Planning Commission meeting on Feb. 9 at the Fairfax County Government Center at 8:15 a.m.

Largely, residents expressed their displeasure toward Mason District Supervisor Penny Gross. Back in February 2011, Gross wrote a column for the Falls Church News Press discussing the benefits of the zoning changes and the RCPA rallied support against the proposed motion via petitions and other citizen support.

“The supervisor in the district sets the policy and the tone,” said McDermott. “What we’re finding in Mason is that we have a very pro-developer supervisor and every time I hear of a story, the supervisor’s on the wrong end of the development.”

“We don’t want to see any changes in the character of our neighborhoods unless the majority of people agree with it,” said Fred Costello, chair of the Fairfax Federation Citizens Association Land Use Committee. Costello said the county claims residential development increases tax revenue, but argued that county services that residents need results in higher taxes.

“We need to join together… this is not hopeless. We can really make a difference,” Sriwardene said.

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Editor's note: This story has been amended to clarify that Ravenwood Park Citizen's Association's is opposed to the change in zoning to allow greater density on the Peace Valley Lane property. The RPCA is not solely against the addition of townhomes.

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