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Annandale community groups oppose infill housing development | Environment

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Annandale community groups oppose infill housing development
Annandale community groups oppose infill housing development

Residents of Wilburdale, Annandale Acres, Sunset Lane, and surrounding communities came out in force to a recent Mason Land Use Committee meeting to register their opposition to a proposed infill development close to the intersection of Backlick Road and Braddock Road.

Ana Cornejo, the owner of two houses at 4954 Sunset Lane wants to tear one down and build three more on her 2.17-acre wooded lot and add a private driveway onto Backlick.

Neighbors’ number-one concern is the developers’ inadequate plan for storm water management, says Kate Sriwardene, president of the Wilburdale Civic Association. But that’s not all. “The property is an eyesore, with lots of cars and work trucks,” she said.

Even more troubling is the relentless infill development going on all over the area, with larger properties chopped up into smaller and smaller lots. “We see Annandale as a sanctuary inside the Beltway,” Sriwardene says. With all the development going on, “it’s no longer the Annandale that I like and want to raise my kids in.”

After the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors (BOS) approved Cornejo’s zoning special exception to build three houses on the property a couple of years ago, a group of neighbors filed suit. Last April, the Fairfax County Circuit Court ruled the BOS exceeded its authority under the Dillon Rule by approving the zoning change and waiving the rules on lot width.

To get around that, Cornejo is now applying for a special exception under a different zoning category—Planned Development Housing (PDH-2)—which calls for the creation of a homeowners association. “This type of zoning sets a precedent that a planned development is okay. It’s not okay,” Sriwardene says.

Cornejo reportedly wants her sons to live in the new houses. But what if they don’t? “She will have trouble selling them because they would be on very small lots with a shared driveway onto a busy road,” Sriwardene said. “Who’s going to want to pay HOA dues for a property like that?”

Sriwardene told the Mason District Land Use Committee it was “very upsetting” that Mason Supervisor Penny Gross waived Cornejo’s $28,000 rezoning fee. Committee member Janet Hall, who also represents Mason District on the Fairfax County Planning Commission, defended Gross. “I don’t think you should judge Penny harshly for waiving the fee,” she said, because Cornejo already paid lots of money in fees and it’s not her fault that the matter has to be reviewed again. 

Every time an application comes in, “we treat it as if it was brand new,” Hall said. “This application has to stand on its own,” and having the fee waived “doesn’t mean it will be approved.”

At the committee meeting, Blake Smith of Smith Engineering, who represents Cornejo, said the development plans include two infiltration trenches and an eight-foot pit of gravel under a grass swale to control drainage.

Wilburdale resident Frank Parrotta, who has done extensive research on water runoff issues in the community, argued that Smith’s proposal is insufficient to prevent flooding of nearby homes. The Cornejo property is at a higher elevation than surrounding houses, and water runoff from that property flows through a culvert under Backlick Road. Several Wilburdale homes were flooded in September following Tropical Storm Lee.

Local residents also expressed confusion over who would be responsible for maintaining the drainage system. It was suggested that the new HOA would manage the stormwater controls, but several people questioned whether that would work, especially since the drainage system would benefit other homeowners downstream from the new houses.
 A resident of the Sunset Village homeowners association said traffic is already a problem on Backlick, and another access road “would be a nightmare.” “Why do we keep rezoning?” asked another resident. “We’re not interested in more and more houses. It will create problems with access, egress, and traffic, as well as water.” According to Hall, the property owner could have three houses on the property by right—which means the land wouldn’t have to be rezoned and the community wouldn’t have any input in the development or drainage issues. Putting in four houses, however, gives the neighbors an opportunity to present their concerns to county officials, which could lead to having the proposal amended. “It isn’t a case of no development,” Hall said. “There are tradeoffs. It’s up to you to decide if it’s a benefit to you.” Mason Land Use Committee chair Roy Lounsbury said the committee will discuss the rezoning proposal again at its January meeting and might or might not come to a decision at that time. He said the committee hasn’t seen architectural renderings of the houses and would need to see them before voting on the development.  The Planning Commission is scheduled to take up the matter Feb. 23.