Tree preservation, pedestrian safety and increasing neighborhood traffic were some of the concerns raised by residents at Tuesday night’s Mason District Land Use Committee’s presentation on the addition of an assisted living facility to Gallows Road.
The proposed 95-room Brightview Senior Living facility would be located at 3450 Gallows Road, across the street from Woodburn Elementary School. Of the 95 rooms, 23 would be memory care apartments in a secured third-floor wing of the facility for patients with Alzheimer’s or dementia.
The site would hold 60 parking spots and include a courtyard area for residents, among other amenities such as a café, library, fitness center, multimedia room and computer center. Brightview plans to have dedicated transportation and in-house linen services and housekeeping in addition to offering social and recreational activities for its residents.
Since early spring, developers with Brightview and its parent company Shelter Group, Inc have met with members of the communities surrounding the property. According to Senior Development Director Andrew Teeters, the special exception request and site plan submitted to Fairfax County on July 31 was created in response to concerns raised at previous community meetings.
Despite the meetings, residents on Tuesday still expressed doubt the facility would not bring additional traffic to an already congested area. Brightview’s main entrance would be located off of Gallows Road, since residents objected to a connection from Aston Street.
The facility’s 28 employees would work in daily shifts during off-peak hours from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. and 11 p.m. to 7 a.m., according to the presentation. Since Brightview residents are unlikely to drive, Teeters said the only other potential traffic would come from visitors in the evening or during the weekend.
According to Teeters, a preliminary traffic study completed earlier this year showed the facility would have a less than five percent impact on traffic on Gallows Road.
“I don’t think this will exacerbate the problem,” said Teeters, who added that regardless of how the land was developed, the traffic on Gallows would still increase.
Peggy Daley, secretary of the Holmes Run Acres Civic Association, disagreed with Teeters, likening Gallows Road to a “race track” due to the lack of traffic lights.
“It’s already almost impossible to make a left … Any more traffic coming in and out that is beyond residential use would make a significant impact,” Daley said.
Roy Lounsbury, chair of the Land Use Committee, said residents would be hard-pressed to find a development that wouldn’t increase traffic.
“There’s no proposal that comes to us that does not increase traffic. The only way traffic would not increase is if someone came in, took something down, ad made a park. Anything else is an improvement which means you increase traffic,” Lounsbury said.
Other longtime residents said they were disappointed with the facility because of its placement in a residential area. One attendee, a Gallows Road resident for 25 years, said she would not welcome a “commercial enterprise” into the community. Another audience member worried the facility would create a “domino effect” and bring in other commercial properties and retail that would destroy the residential aspect of the neighborhood.
“Every time someone comes into an area and does something different as precedent and people start worrying about the influx of copycats, it’s nature,” Lounsbury said.
Aaron Frank, who works on land use issues in Mason District Supervisor Penny Gross’ office, said it’s unlikely the zoning category for surrounding properties would change as a result of the facility coming in unless such developments requested a comprehensive plan change. According to Frank, the current planning sector permits residential development and Special Exception uses, but retail development would not be permitted without a comprehensive plan change in addition to a rezoning application.
Stormwater and Tree Preservation Concerns
The stormwater facility will be located near the Aston Street end of the property and will likely be a landscaped dry pond, according to Teeters. Teeters said the developers are still finalizing the stormwater layout, but the area will be properly gated off to prevent tampering.
In addition to stormwater, preserving the landscape and trees in the area was a concern raised by residents such as David Holland, president of the Broyhill Crest Community Association. Holland said he hoped Brightview wouldn’t take down too many trees because removing too many “would impede on the way of life of people who live in the community” and remove a valuable resource that would take years to go back.
Teeters said developers were able to preserve 70 percent of the green space and will also plant additional Evergreen trees. Memory care patients would have their own dedicated outdoor roof terrace that would include plants, shaded areas with seated tables and path systems for walking or wheelchair access. For the safety of the residents, the area would also have a trellis system.
The next step is for the Fairfax County Planning Commission to review Brightview’s proposal. That date has yet to be determined.