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September 18, 2020

Planners reject proposed rezoning for 65 new homes

Planning commission members cited a number of issues before voting, 5-0, to recommend denial of the rezoning.
Ladies and gentlemen, this proposal is not remotely as bad or harmful as you’ve been led to think. And yet, its fate seems to be sealed.
— John Foote, applicant’s attorney
Public Hearing
• Topic: Application to rezone the 41.3-acre Pelham Property site to allow 65 single-family homes at Routes 28 and 29 near.

• When: Thursday, Sept. 17.

• Agency: Fauquier County Planning Commission

• Length: About nine minutes.

• Speakers: One — the applicant’s representative Northern Virginia land-use lawyer John Foote. But, the county receive 17 written comments in opposition to the project.

• Issues: Comprehensive plan, zoning, density, lot size, development impacts, proffers

• Applicant: Elm Street Development, McLean.

• Landowner: Red Maple Properties LLC, Vienna.

• Action: The commission voted, 5-0, to recommend denial of the application.

• Next: The planning commission serves as an advisory panel to the board of supervisors, which has final authority. The board could hold a public hearing on the project Oct. 8.

• Documents: Click here for application, county staff report, etc.
By .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
Staff Journalist
After a nine-minute public hearing Thursday night, the Fauquier County Planning Commission unanimously recommended denial of a proposed 65-home subdivision southwest of Bealeton.

Applicant Elm Street Development of McLean seeks approval to rezone the 41.3-acre Pelham Property site at Routes 28 and 29 from “Rural Agricultural” to allow one to three dwellings per acre.

Under existing zoning, the site has two “by-right” home lots.

Just one person — Northern Virginia lawyer John Foote, who represents the applicant — spoke during the planning commission’s public hearing Thursday on the project.

But, the county received 17 written comments in opposition to the proposal.

The proposed 65 homes would be clustered on 19.2 acres — equating to almost 2.2 homes per acre. Home lots would range from 8,500 square feet to 14,503 square feet; 47 lots would be fewer than 10,000 square feet and 18 would be larger.

The balance of the site — about 22 acres — would be set aside as permanent open space.

The Pelham Property proposal, which would be served with public water and sewer, includes:

• Five “exercise stations.”

• A “tot lot.”

• Trails.

• A four-acre “active recreation area.”

The county Department of Community Development staff report raises a number of concerns related to:

• The project’s incompatibility with the comprehensive plan’s vision of the area.

• Lot sizes and density that differ with surrounding communities and the area’s existing development pattern.

• The appropriateness of the applicant’s proffers to offset the project’s impacts on public infrastructure.

The proposal also calls for extending Southcoate Village Drive, which cuts through the largely completed 179-lot subdivision of the same name, to Route 29. That would connect Southcoate Village’s only access at Route 28 with the busy four-lane highway.

Elm Street Development has pledged to “proffer” or give county government $148,763 to help offset the project’s impacts on public infrastructure. That includes $48,763 for emergency services and parks and $100,000 for transportation improvements.

The applicant also has agreed to make various on- and off-site transportation improvements related to the project.

The project would generate an estimated 47 public school students, according to Elm Street Development. The applicant has proffered no public education money, believing that county schools can handle the additional youngsters.

But “the projected 24 elementary school students from the development exceeds the existing capacity at Pierce Elementary (in Remington), where these students would likely attend, from today through the 2021-22 school year,” according to the county community development department’s staff report on the project.

The report also states that school system’s 10-year enrollment projections “indicate that enrollment at Grace Miller Elementary School (in Bealeton) should be monitored closely because projected capacity is approaching 95 percent in future years 2023-24 and beyond.”

The analysis adds: “If the school students generated from the proposed development exceed the capacity at any of the schools, the county would need to consider adding additional capacity and/or redistricting the region as needed to accommodate the students.”

His client has hired a “leading expert” that determined the proposed proffer’s sufficiently mitigated the project’s capital impacts on public services, Mr. Foote told the planning commission.

He also called the proposed Route 29 access to the Pelham Property site “much better” the unbuilt right-of-way that would extend Southcoate Village Drive to Route 28.

For one thing, a Route 29 access would reduce the emergency services’ response time from the Remington Volunteer Fire and Rescue Co. to parts of the proposed site and Southcoate Village by more than 90 seconds, Mr. Foote said.

“It’s actually a public health benefit to have the access to where it is proposed,” he told the planning commission.

Mr. Foote also argued that the rezoning would provide “a reasonable (home site) yield” and allow for more “flexible lot sizes.”

“Ladies and gentlemen, this proposal is not remotely as bad or harmful as you’ve been led to think,” he told the commission. “And yet, its fate seems to be sealed.”

Planning Commissioner John Meadows’ Lee District includes the project site.

From 2000 to 2002, he co-chaired a citizens’ committee to study the comprehensive plan.

The committee unanimously agreed “there was going to be a term called ‘the hard edge’ for service districts’,” Mr. Meadows said moments before Thursday night’s vote. “And this area is one of those hard edges” intended to separate planned development and rural areas.

The hard-edge concept “so far has survived,” he added. “And this is what the citizens want. I have no one that has called to say that they would like to see it change.”

Objecting to the proposal, Commissioner Matthew Smith (Cedar Run District) said it represented “too much density” for the area.

Among her many concerns about the project, Chairwoman Adrienne Garreau (Scott District) cited the proposed Route 29 access.

“I just don’t see adding an access there is going to serve the public health, safety and welfare,” Mrs. Garreau said.

The planning commission serves as an advisory panel to the board of supervisors, which has final authority. The board could hold a public hearing on the Pelham Property project Oct. 8.

Contact Don Del Rosso at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or 540-270-0300.
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JDwarrenton · September 19, 2020 at 7:28 am
Developers really got their moneys worth when they went to Richmond in 2016 and had the legislature outlaw proffers.

This application offers $147,763 in proffers, or $2,288 per lot, to "mitigate" its effect on roads, schools, fire and rescue. Under old proffer "guidelines", this would have been $15,000 to $25,000 per lot. In fast growing counties like Fairfax and Loudoun, those proffers would have been more - as much as $45,000 per lot with cash and performance (new roads, etc.) proffers. In counties in and around Richmond, like Chesterfield that has serious school crowding and infrastructure problems, proffers had always been $0 to $1,000 per home. To those that say proffers raise the cost of housing, you're right. But it places the cost on those expanding communities that generate the need for new schools and roads (capital costs) versus maintaining existing infrastructure (operating cost). Looks like the PC correctly weighed those costs.
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