As Fairfax County’s oldest neighborhoods continue to mature, many are grappling with infill, or redevelopment, of small pieces of property within their communities.
One recent example is a comprehensive plan amendment approved Tuesday that would allow as many as eight single-family homes to be built on the edge of the Ravenwood Park community in Falls Church.
Although the number of homes is small, current residents said they are concerned the new homes won’t fit in with their homes, which were built in the 1950s, and that development could add to existing parking and traffic problems in Ravenwood Park.
“Ravenwood Park is a place with a vibrant community life,” said John Iekel, homeowner’s association co-president. “That is exactly the kind of neighborhood the comprehensive plan seeks to preserve.”
A church and townhome community on the other side of the property also opposed the plan change, primarily citing concerns about the location of a new road that would be needed to access the property, which currently has no access to a public street.
In approving the plan, county supervisors tried to assure Ravenwood Park residents that they would be better off with an application that has to undergo the rezoning process.
“This proposal is a good example of the difficulties of infill development,” said Supervisor John Cook (R-Braddock). “It’s not easy because there aren’t fair ways to go about it.”
Cook said he has tasked his district’s land-use committee with developing guidelines to better evaluate infill projects in Braddock District.
The developer that now owns the property, the Concordia Group, can build as many as five houses without seeking new zoning approval, or “by right.” To build the newly approved maximum of eight, a developer would need to apply to rezone the property, which would allow conditions to be placed on the development.
“I’ve never seen a by right development that has a better result than one that comes about as a result of a plan amendment and rezoning,” said Supervisor Jeff McKay (D-Lee), adding he has seen many bad examples in his district where infill was done by right, such as clear-cutting trees.
Supervisor Penelope Gross (D-Mason), who represents the Ravenwood Park community, said she supported the proposal as the best possible outcome for a property with a “long and, recently, a difficult history.”
The one home on the property had become a rental owned by an absentee landlord after a prior attempt to redevelop the site with townhomes failed.
Gross said she thinks the community’s major concerns—not allowing townhouses, and ensuring Peace Valley is not extended to create cut-through traffic from Route 7 to Columbia Pike — are addressed in the plan amendment.
“When we have by right development, the community gets nothing,” she said.