F.C. Withdraws Building Permits for 1007 Lincoln Ave. Site

The City of Falls Church announced yesterday that it has revoked permits and issued a stop work order on the residential development project at 1007 Lincoln Ave. The order is in response to the City Planning Commission’s ruling on Monday to overturn the City’s Chesapeake Bay Interdisciplinary Review Team’s (CBIRT) decision on the grading plan for the site, citing that the plan was in violation of City Code.

The City’s order contains a temporary allowance to address immediate site stabilization and safety concerns.

If or when a new grading plan is submitted, it will be reviewed for consistency with the Planning Commission determination, according to the City’s statement. A new will plan will also need to successfully complete the City’s standard approval process, which includes staff review, notice to adjacent properties, and a public CBIRT meeting prior to approval. The stop work order will stay in force until a new grading plan is approved.

“I’m not surprised by this decision,” Art McArthur, co-owner of Little City Builders, which is developing the lot, told the News-Press. “We are in consultation with our attorney, and we will figure out where to go from here. … We would like to find an amicable solution to be able to continue to develop the property.”

In a continuation of a meeting that saw nearly three hours of debate on the issue last week, the Planning Commission ruled this Monday to uphold citizen appeals against the approval by the CBIRT of residential development on the 1000 block of Lincoln Avenue.

The judgment brought to an end the Commission’s first foray into the appeals process for CBIRT reviews.

The development at 1007 Lincoln Ave., plans for two homes, have been questioned by area residents who fear the construction will negatively impact water quality (resulting in higher water pollution) and quantity (resulting in greater risk and severity of flooding in the area), because of the greater amount of permeable, water-absorbing green space the construction will conceal.

Two appeals, one by residents of the adjacent Steeples Court properties and one by John Murphy of a nearby property on Chestnut Street, requested that the CBIRT review of the property be overturned on the basis that the review, tasked with ensuring that proposed construction not negatively impact water quality in local streams and rivers that feed into the Chesapeake Bay, was incorrect in its findings and that the development would be detrimental to the already flood-prone area.

City Civil Engineer Jason Widstrom, a member of the CBIRT, supported the group’s approval of the proposed development as in line with the City Code for the Chesapeake Bay Preservation Area Overlay District Monday night before the Commission.

The proposed development would include 41.4 percent impervious coverage, meaning that amount of the property would be covered by surfaces like garages, driveways, and the two homes themselves. Widstrom said that City Code states that properties with up to 35 percent impervious coverage do not need to include additional measures to mitigate the water impact, and that this property’s plan includes the use of cisterns to reduce its impact to be measurably similar to that of a property with 35 percent impervious coverage. He added that other area municipalities allow for such mitigation for properties that exceed the allowed impervious coverage.

It’s a reading of City Code to which Commissioner Lindy Hockenberry voiced objection. Hockenberry said, as a sitting member of City Council when the code was adopted, that the intent of the Council was for no properties to exceed 35 percent impervious coverage. She added that Council’s intent then was that 25 percent of the property be the maximum allocated for under-roof space with the additional 10 percent to account for features like a patio or shed that might be included later.

Commission Vice Chair John Lawrence echoed her statements, adding that upon his review of Council minutes that 35 percent was to be seen as the maximum. “It’s a hard cap,” Lawrence said.

Widstrom was the sole voice of support for the CBIRT decision before the Commission at Monday’s meeting. Representatives for Little City Builders, the developers of the property, did not provide additional comment before the Commission (though McArthur made remarks at last week’s meeting in support of the plan for the two houses).

On a motion Monday to uphold the appeals was put to vote and supported by all present commissioners (Robert Loftur-Thun was absent) except Russell Wodiska, who agreed with the CBIRT reading of the letter of the City Code and said the developer shouldn’t be “penalized for being in an area that is already problematic.”

Concerning the CBIRT, its goal is to reduce the impacts of development on water quality of local streams, the Potomac River, and the Chesapeake Bay. This is achieved through vegetative buffering, low-impact development, and best management practice techniques.