2024-07-14 4:52 AM

A Penny for Your Thoughts

 The human condition is always changing.  Scholars and philosophers have observed that simple but significant fact for centuries.  Local land use provides a good example of how some of the human condition has changed over time.  The large estates and farms of early Fairfax County were succeeded by the pre-and-post-World War II suburban model of two-story brick colonial houses.  In the early 1950s, thousands of brick and frame ramblers grew like crops on former farm fields as the county’s population skyrocketed.  When the cost of land rose, young families found that townhouses provided more first-time buyer affordability.  More recently, a demand for larger homes has changed the face of those older suburbs, with additions and, sometimes, teardowns to accommodate the larger structure footprint.  Through it all, apartment complexes drew students, young government employees, and an increasingly diverse population to locate in Fairfax County.  In tandem, the commercial sectors also grew to serve the residential neighborhoods.

Most of those changes required some sort of zoning approval, which included community outreach, rigorous planning staff review, and Planning Commission consideration, before the Board of Supervisors made a final decision.  Recognizing that land use needs change, Fairfax County instituted the Site-Specific Plan Amendment (SSPA) process to consider nominations for potential changes to the county’s Comprehensive Plan.  Last fall, nominations for land use changes were solicited, and 70 nominations countywide made the “first cut.”  Five Mason District nominations were accepted for further review, and have been the subjects of community meetings before staff recommendations for the work program come to the Board next month.   

Mason District proposals included adding a multi-family building with retail on the Wilson Blvd. frontage of the existing Cavalier Club apartments in the Seven Corners area; the Arlington/Fairfax jurisdictional line runs through the property, but Fairfax County will consider only the portion proposed on the county side.  Another nomination was received to amend the Plan for Pistone’s Restaurant and adjoining parcels.  The nominator has been asked to provide more detail for their idea.  In Bailey’s Crossroads, a long-vacant large parcel along Church Street adjacent to the Bailey’s Crossroads Shopping Center is being proposed for a multifamily building with surface parking.  In the Annandale area, several parcels on Gallows Road are proposed for consolidation to build about 20 single family homes.  The final nomination, at the corner of Columbia Road and Little River Turnpike, proposes to build 105 apartments on a two-acre commercially zoned parcel.  

Community input generally was positive for Cavalier Club and a bit mixed for Pistone’s; there was support for housing on the Church Street parcels, but a lot of concern about surface parking instead of a parking deck.  The Gallows Road nomination was received positively, but with a strong admonition to address the traffic issues.  Dozens of neighbors opposed the Little River Turnpike nomination, arguing that the parcel is better suited for retail uses. Most of the nominations were submitted for parcels that have been vacant or underused for many years. 

Change can be difficult, but change also must be considered to address the enormous population growth already in the region, with more forecasted to come.  School buildings become senior living centers; shopping malls, a mid-century creation, are torn down to become hospital campuses and mixed-use residential locations.  High-rise office buildings morph into live/work structures, and department stores give way to Amazon delivery vans.  What was normal and comfortable for grandparents often is not what their grandchildren see in their future.  Not all ideas for future development and redevelopment will move to fruition, but public engagement provides greater insight and, often, a better product in the end.

  Penny Gross is the Mason District Supervisor, in the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. She may be emailed at mason@fairfaxcounty.gov.





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