Houses At Risk if Developed in Wrong Way

More proposals for property in the Sully District.


This is Part 3 of the Site-Specific Plan Amendments various entities have proposed for land in the Sully District. 

Proposed amendments, or nominations, to Fairfax County’s Comprehensive plan were discussed during virtual meetings Jan. 25 and Jan. 30, presented by the Department of Planning and Development and moderated by Michael Burton. Online attendees were also able to comment.

Then members of the West Fairfax County Citizens Assn. (WFCCA) and Sully District Council (SDC) Joint Land-Use Committee received their own presentation, Feb. 20, and made recommendations.

“County staff will screen each proposal for its merits,” said Burton. “We haven’t fully evaluated these ideas and won’t do so until we’re authorized to by the Board of Supervisors. Then, after Planning Commission workshops, the Planning Commission will recommend to the Board which amendments should go forward.”

* West Ox Road and Southfield Drive – This involves six land parcels totaling 4.35 acres at 3155 West Ox Road in Oak Hill. Formerly the site of Burke Nursery & Garden Centre, it’s currently zoned for retail and low-density residential use, and is now proposed for up to eight, single-family, detached residential units at a density of two homes/acre (R-2).   

Burton said the county would like some open space there and wondered how the additional density would benefit the county. He also urged the potential developer to work with the single-family homeowners east of this property.

Representing the nominator, land-use attorney Sara Mariska said the site is zoned C-8 for intense commercial use and had been planned for retail by the garden center. But, she said, “It’s out of character with its [residential] surroundings.”

As it stands now, said Mariska, “Up to 13,000 square feet of retail use could be built there by right – or five, large, single-family homes. We propose removing the commercial designation – because the garden center is no longer there – and rezoning that site to R-2. This could be really attractive, and we could have open space and better pedestrian connectivity with the neighborhood.”

Ramesh Kalwala, a Southfield Drive homeowner, worried how the grading for the new homes would affect his property. “The civil engineer said they’ll follow Fairfax County ordinances and improve stormwater runoff,” replied Mariska. “We don’t expect any impacts to your property.”

Environmentalist Dale McGrath, Kalwala’s neighbor, has lived there 22 years and said, “We all agree they should get rid of the commercial designation, but we want to keep it R-1 [one home per/acre]. We have water-runoff issues, there’s environmentally sensitive land here and we all have septic systems. We live in a floodplain and we’re scared to death of more flooding.”

“Every house is at risk if this is developed in the wrong way,” she continued. “And there’s a stream that eventually feeds into our drinking water. It’s a bonafide wetlands area. Plus, many animals – owls, foxes, raccoons, snakes and turtles – live there, and I’m concerned what would happen to them.”

Another neighbor, Kumar Chandran, lives next to one of the six parcels. “We purchased [our home] for the R-1 zoning, but now we’d have a neighbor eight feet away,” he said. “My lot is below grade, and we already have flooding. This zoning change would drastically increase the flooding for us, and the other five properties abutting this site, and would impact our septic fields. The commercial property was previously used for fuel storage, and disturbing it would adversely affect the environment, as well.”

Resident Bud Higgins said all six lots in question are in the Southfield subdivision, and homebuyers there were promised they’d remain R-1 forever. “Changing it to R-2 would renege on that promise,” he said. “And there’d be less setback lines and more density. This rezoning would totally change the character of our lots.”

Aki Pezeshki lives on the lot closest to the site proposed for redevelopment. “We all don’t want our environmentally sensitive land disturbed,” he said. “This won’t create green space – it will just add more impervious surface.”

Later on, the Joint Land-Use Committee had no objections to this amendment, but recommended decreasing the number of home units from eight to seven, 

* Centreville and Wall roads – This Oak Hill site at the intersection of Centreville and Wall roads is next to the Chantilly Highlands community and the new Sully District community Center. It’s currently planned for offices, with an option for mixed-use, including 47,600 square feet of retail. 

However, the nominator wants residential use instead of offices there, with just 1.5 to 2 percent of the parcel developed commercially, instead of 5 percent, as it’s presently designated. Attorney Mariska also represents this nominator, Potomac Land Group, and said this proposal is for a mix of up to 29,000 square feet of commercial use, 50 townhouses and four live/work units – residential above ground-floor commercial – along Atlantis Street.