Kensington Senior Living Gets Conceptual OK; Nearby Residents None-Too-Pleased

by Dave Emke September 20, 2017 at 4:15 pm 19 Comments

Despite statements from local residents to the contrary, Reston’s Design Review Board says a proposed senior-living facility on Sunrise Valley Drive will be an appropriate addition to the community.

During their meeting Tuesday (video), the DRB voted 4-2 to give conceptual approval to the Kensington Senior Living project, pending final architectural drawings. The facility would be constructed at 11501 Sunrise Valley Drive, which is the current home of Good Beginnings School.

After previous designs for the property were for a building of up to 91,000 square feet and five stories, the developers have brought their proposal down to about 65,000 feet and two stories. However, residents of adjacent Wethersfield Cluster say they have concerns that even a two-story building will result in their privacy being disturbed.

“I can still see sight lines from the second floor into our first-floor rooms,” said Thea Kreinik, of Approach Lane. Kreinik and other residents said having the building so close to their properties would also have a negative effect on their property values.

Following comments from numerous residents about the use of the property, which is outside the DRB’s purview, vice chair Richard Newlon said he doesn’t agree with their assertions that an assisted-living facility is a bad fit.

“You have room there to build 30 townhouses, something like that,” Newlon said. “The residents of this facility are not going to be driving in and out all the time, the parking is underground, there’s not going to be a lot of traffic outside, [and] people in this type of facility are probably not going to be out in that backyard playing volleyball and making a lot of noise.”

One resident who spoke following the Board’s discussion said the “better this than that” mentality does not sit well with the community.

“The impression I’m getting from the Board — your kind of thinly veiled comment to us — is, ‘Suck it up with this old-folks home, or you’re going to get something worse,'” said Lisa White, of Wethersfield Court. “That’s not making me feel comfortable.”

The issue of lighting from the facility affecting nearby residents was also brought up, and the developers were told by DRB to “be cognizant moving forward” to address the issue.

Residents of the cluster who attended the meeting and spoke out against the project let their displeasure be known as they exited the room following the vote.

“I hope all of you [who voted for it] get one on your doorstep,” one member could be heard telling the Board following the passage of the motion.

The Kensington Senior Living facility is planned to include 96 beds within 70 units. It still must receive additional approval both locally and at the county level.

  • John Higgins

    “You have room there to build thirty townhomes…”

    Well, that’s true. There is room there to build a gas station, a roller coaster, a Best Buy, and many other uses not envisioned in the Reston Master Plan. This is a transitional site between townhouses and a convenience center. The Plan told us it was right for a school (New Beginnings comes to mind), a library, governmental offices. Not residential, not commercial. The rendering included in this article is accurate, but does not give the reader the perspective photo overlays give. If you like the apartments going up along Sunrise Valley by the Exxon station, the Kensington Valley of Brick will appeal to you. Despite downsizing from its initial (laughable) proposal, this facility remains – as one DRB member put it – an aircraft carrier on Lake Thoreau.

    Thanks, DRB, for faithful adherence to the spirit (and letter) of the Master Plan and preservation of this piece of Reston affecting 65 residents as you accommodate the desires of one adjoining property owner.

    If you do not get dizzy on merry-go-rounds, stay tuned for the Board of Supervisors action when Kensington seeks zoning variance to build a “health care facility” (requiring 3 acres) on this 1.7 acres. As a health care facility, one can argue that it is institutional, a fit with the Master Plan. Of course, the BOS is on record (rejecting a similar proposal in McLean) as considering assisted living facilities to be residential use. Interestingly, the rejection was on the basis that the facility would burden an already heavily traveled road in McLean. Good thing Sunrise Valley Drive is not a heavily traveled road.

    Last thought: where is RA on this issue? Has anyone asked if the future Kensington residents will be RA members? Has this even cross the radar of RA’s land use counsel?

    • Donald

      I agree.

      It seems to me the last couple RA boards have taken a lackadaisical attitude towards matters like this. All they do is get on camera and tell Ms. Fulkerson to write a letter with the RA president’s name at the bottom. Writing letters gets you nothing.

      In this instance, the RA board should have had their Land Use attorney and his firm involved in this matter early on. Yes, it costs money, but hell, we are living in a new environment. We’re going to need a whole lot more money for legal land use matters if we want Reston to remain Reston.

      But, instead, RA claims their DRB is their fighting arm to take on matters like this. What a false pretense! Wake up.

      This matter, and others to come, will require a much stronger RA presence with the P& Z, BOS and Land Use Planning. Because, by the time it hits the DRB, it is for all intents and purposes, a fait accompli.

      Hey, RA Board, you have some fine legal resources at your beck and call. Wake up, use them! Budget accordingly.


      • Fact

        The RA is not a town or municipality.

        • Donald

          Yes, you are right.

          RA also represents a significant presence in the Reston Master Plan, especially with regard to the PRC. I believe, with strong legal representation, the Members could be getting a lot more than just letters from the president.

          To the matter of the Kensington above, I truly believe if the board was far more proactive early on, listened to their attorney, and took action, we’d be in a better place.

          Every month the Land Use attorney provides updates and Trackers for upcoming land items. The intent is to identify items early in the process, where actions could be discussed and taken.

          Where is the board on these matters? Do you see the board taking time at their board meetings to discuss and take action? At the last meeting Ms. Hebert relegated the attorney’s presentation to the end of the night. Then teased him to keep it short so they could get out on time. My god.

          Review the Trackers over on the lower right-hand side of this page:


          • guest

            Maybe some community advocacy would be more effective and cost a hell of a lot less. Have you seen what RA pays in attorney fees? What have we gotten for all that money? The Lake House, for one. Attorney fees + $2.65M.

          • Donald

            You need both.


          • Mike M

            Agreed! Lawyers will save us or lawyers will screw us? I think the jury is in on that one.

        • John Farrell

          Funcionally it is.

    • John Farrell

      Pretty sure that parcel is already subject to RA.

    • Mason Miller

      Actually that lot also could be a restaurant. The Virginia Supreme Court anded up settling a dispute over its allowed uses, but the owner never opened a restaurant there after winning the lawsuit.

      • John Higgins

        Thank you. It’s fascinating how their pieces of our history become lost until someone steps up to reveal them. So much for the Master Plan fantasy.

  • Donald

    Where was the board when this was presented by the RA Land Use attorney last year?
    (Item E., Page 4)



  • CE

    I’ll say it again, since they are going to tear down the ‘Good Beginnings School’, they should really reconsider naming this ‘The Happy Endings Senior Living Center’. I’m sure it would garner more support from the neighbors.

  • PGG

    Wow! Maybe you won’t have to hassle with driving all the way to your elderly parents when they’re in a senior home. They can be right on your block. What a bunch of selfish ingrates you all are who are complaining. Makes we want to puke!

    • John Higgins

      PGG, I regret disruption to your digestive system, but it’s a self-inflicted wound. Objections to this project are not made on the basis of how it will be used. That’s not what DRB is about and it’s not the concern of neighbors. The issue is the inappropriate size and positioning of the structure. The concerns would be the same if this were to be a three story-day college dorm or workforce housing project. Good uses, but not in this scale in this location. And not residential.

      • Winslow Wacker


  • Greg

    All the more reason we need a cemetery.

  • Nyla J.

    Newlon has no clue. Has he been to the one in Falls Church? Residents might not be driving in and out much but the shifts of workers and resident guests will be. Bad fit but not surprising this will be a go.

  • Roxane Hughes

    What is the status of the senior living project at the old United Christian Parish site on Colts Neck Road across from Hunters Woods Plaza? Any impact on this project?


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