Another Look at Proposals

Another Look at Proposals

County staff, nominators discuss changes to Comprehensive Plan.

Fairfax County planning staff had cold feet over almost all the non-task force nominations on the table for the Braddock District Area Plans Review (APR). Planners Indrani Sistla and Sterling Wheeler recommended against three out of four proposals for changes to the Fairfax County Comprehensive Plan at a task force meeting Tuesday, Jan. 3.

Citing concerns about density and an inadequate plan for affordable housing, planning staff disapproved of a nomination that would lead to redevelopment of the Waples Mobile Home Park. Developer A.J. Dwoskin, who owns the park at Waples Mill Road and Route 29 in Fairfax, proposed an amendment to the Comprehensive Plan that would permit the redevelopment of the mobile home park into multi-family residential units. The amendment would also offer an option to redevelop the land next to the park as a day-care center or other use for the people living in the apartments, townhouses or condominiums built on the property.

Mobile home parks are disappearing in a rapidly growing community like Fairfax County, said Benjamin Tompkins of law firm Reed Smith, who represents A.J. Dwoskin.

"The way Fairfax evolves, the way Fairfax County provides affordable housing is changing as well," he said. Old ways of providing cheap places to live, like mobile home parks, are "land-consumptive" and far less efficient than constructing low-rent apartment buildings, he said.

AFFORDABLE HOUSING is one of the developer’s priorities in the proposal, said Tompkins. Out of the 750 condominiums that would be built on the mobile home park, 150 would remain affordable housing. The rest would cater more toward "workforce housing," made up of county employees like firefighters and teachers, than the seniors and recent immigrants who make up the bulk of Waples Mobile Home Park now, he said.

"We think the best use will be as a multifamily community," said Tompkins.

"The plan considers mobile home parks as sources of affordable housing," said Sistla. The proposal would further the lack of affordable housing in the county, she said.

Task force members probed the issue of affordable housing. Kemp Skudin wondered whether the developer could keep lot rents stable in the intervening years between now and possible development. According to Roni Robins of A.J. Dwoskin, one-third of the lots in Waples Mobile Home Park are rent-controlled, and likely would continue that way.

"You don’t want to be the people [who] put somebody out on the street," said Tompkins. The developer has no specific plans yet, he said, but were the park redeveloped, the 150 rent-controlled apartments would be scattered among the market-value apartments in the buildings.

The increase in units, from the 100 mobile homes currently at the park to the proposed 750, is too dense for the area, said Sistla. Task force member John Shivik pointed out that two or four people living in each unit would mean a population increase of 2,000 or more.

While the proposed development would mean a density increase, the property faces several shopping areas, said Tompkins. "We don't see [Route] 29 as a magic dividing line," he said.

PLANNING STAFF also recommended against two other proposals that sought to change the density of their properties. Frank Jones, representing his mother, property owner Lillian Jones, wanted to add an option to the plan for a mixed-use development on the corner of Ox Road and University Drive, just outside the City of Fairfax. The Church of the Good Shepherd, an Episcopal church on Braddock Road in Burke, proposed a density change from 1-2 dwelling units per acre to 2-3.

"Mixed use could result directly in high-density, non-residential development not compatible in scale and mass of the surrounding areas," said Sistla. The Good Shepherd nomination did not match the densities of nearby neighborhoods, she said.

"We are only seeking harmony with this policy to the Comprehensive Plan," said Jones.

Changing the plan would help Good Shepherd conform to the density of its nearby neighborhoods, said Lynn Strobel, who represented the church.

But much of the area around Good Shepherd, especially a subdivision to the west of the property, is developed at 1-2 dwelling units per acre, said Sistla, and a change would be incompatible. A compromise, said Wheeler, would be to change the plan for part of the property and keep the current density on the rest of it.

Planners were more favorable to a proposal to change the plan regarding the Heritage Mall development in Annandale. The owner, Mike Webb, wanted to rebuild the current shopping center with a mix of residential and retail uses.

Supervisor Sharon Bulova (D-Braddock) said the redevelopment plan fit well with the district's efforts to revitalize the Annandale area.