F.C. Planners Give Key OK to Railroad Cottage Proposal

AN AERIAL VIEW RENDERING of the new railroad cottage residential development proposal presented to the Falls Church Planning Commission Monday night. The plan, approved by the commision at its meeting, is proposed for Railroad Avenue in the City between the W&OD trail and Ellison Street. The proposal now goes to the City Council for final approval. See story, page 4. (Rendering courtesy Railroad Cottages LLC)

With only one dissenting vote, the Falls Church Planning Commission provided a critical endorsement of a “railroad cottages” residential development proposal at its meeting Monday night. The plan now goes back to the Falls Church City Council for final approval, beginning with a work session on August 7 and slated for final vote at the Council’s last scheduled meeting before Labor Day on August 14.

The plan, submitted by local real estate developer and Falls Church resident Bob Young, acting as the managing director of “Railroad Cottages LLC,” involves the construction of 10 “cottages,” each covering about 1,500 square feet with a ground floor and half a second floor, limited as provided by law to senior (age 55 and up) occupancy, on the barely-visible Railroad Avenue sandwiched between the W&OD Bike Trail and Ellison Street, off Fowler Street, in a far-northwestern neighborhood of the City.

The project has been the subject of an aggressive campaign of opposition spearheaded by neighbors to the 1.25-acre site in question, replete with yard signs that have popped up even in distant ends of town. It is expected the opposition campaign will continue until the final City Council vote is taken.
The Planning Commission’s thumbs-up Monday — with only Commissioner Brent Krasner voting “no” — came with some minor qualifications related to a parking overflow aisle to be evaluated after a year following full occupancy of the units and a bike locker location.

The plan came into being following the adoption by the City Council in February that established “cottage housing” developments as a new housing option in the City, allowed through a special exception process.

In addition to the Railroad Avenue plan, there are a handful of other locations in the City that are being reviewed for possible similar development.
The “bungalow” concept of the cottages is designed to provide active seniors with downsized options to occupancy of large single family homes. Not considered “affordable housing,” per se, the units are expected to command upwards of $600,000 each.

In advocating for the Railroad Avenue plan, developer Young noted that three large parcels underlying the acreage now would most certainly be developed for large single-family homes if the cottage plan was rejected.

In addition to the 10 cottages, the plan would include a common house of 1,500 square feet with a kitchen, dining room, social interaction area and a guest room. There will be a clustered parking area with a carport over 10 parking spaces and three uncovered parking spaces. There will be landscape buffers of between 10 and 20 feet in width around all the property lines and a six-foot extension to Railroad Avenue will be added with provision for a fire engine turnaround there.