Opinions clashed Monday as residents packed into the cafeteria at Mount Eagle Elementary School for a public meeting about the proposed development of the Penn Daw Community Business Center (CBC).
Members of the Penn Daw Task Force, which is only an advisory body and consists of local residents and a Southeast Fairfax Development Corporation representative, answered questions regarding a drafted amendment to Fairfax County’s Comprehensive Plan for the rezoning and redevelopment of the area west of South Kings and Richmond Highways, and south of Poag and School Streets.
It is the task force's job to review the amendment and make sure that the plans proposed are acceptable to the community.
Throughout the meeting, residents stressed that they wanted more upscale, quality retail space in the area, unlike the Walmart that opened across the highway in 2010. Some mentioned the idea of a Trader Joe’s.
But getting a grocery store, be it Trader Joe’s or the Shoppers that once anchored the plaza, will be difficult with Walmart so close by, according to a study by Alvarez and Marsal Real Estate Advisory Services.
The study states that without an anchor store, Penn Daw Plaza is “an asset with no reason for being.”
Many also complained about the primarily residential component of the envisioned mixed-use development. Per the property owner's proposal, the area – which consists of three sites – would hold 735 residential units and 70,000 square feet of retail space.
Angered community members worried that 735 new homes would add roughly 1,000 new vehicles to an already dire traffic situation in the area.
But other residents were more supportive of the proposal and urged their peers to reconsider.
“We’re all subject to the traffic in this area,” said one resident in favor of the amendment. “It’s just part of living in this area … If we keep scaring away the developer, what is the alternative that is going to be in that shopping center?”
Local resident and realtor Eva Damelin agreed, noting that many people at the meeting were too resistant to change.
“Route 1 is an eyesore, and like it or not, it is going to get developed,” she said. “This is the beginning of what people see when they look at Route 1. So it is important that [development] starts over here and spreads up Route 1 so it’s an attractive new commercial and residential area.”
Another resident disagreed, saying he was for change. "We're not opposed to development," he said. "But we're absolutely opposed to this."
The task force was evenly split on language to present to the Lee District Land Use Committee, but the county wanted to get the process moving. A presentation of the findings will be made during a meeting of the Lee District Land Use Committee on Monday, March 5, 2012, but it will not reflect a unified view of the task force.
If the committee favors the language and it makes it through a subsequent Planning Commission hearing, it will be presented before the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. If it becomes part of the language in the Comprehensive Plan, then rezoning applications can be submitted.
Lee District Supervisor Jeff McKay couldn't attend the meeting because of a Fairfax County Board of Supervisors retreat, but spoke with Patch Tuesday afternoon, and said the process had already taken more than a year and would only take longer.
“Every property in Lee District has an existing zoning category that it’s in, and existing plan language text," he said. "Somebody can come in within that existing zoning, by right, and build something without any public input.”
That’s what happened with Walmart, he said, and he wants to prevent that from happening again.
“The task force has been voting now for a year and a half. It’s time to vote this up or down at the Land Use Committee. I don’t want this opportunity to go away because the county process killed it.”
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