Proposed Assisted Living Facility on Sunrise Valley Drive Draws Opposition

by Fatimah Waseem December 1, 2017 at 10:15 am 33 Comments

A plan to bring an assisted-living facility to11501 Sunrise Valley Drive continued to draw ire from nearby residents Thursday night.

At a public hearing before the Fairfax County Planning Commission, residents argued the 70-unit building, which would replace Good Beginnings School, a childcare facility, was incompatible with the surrounding residential area south of Sunrise Valley Drive.

The proposal by Kensington Senior Development calls for a two-to-three story building roughly 65,000 square feet — more than eight times larger than the current structure. The plan also includes a parking garage.

The developer’s representative, Mark Looney of Cooley LLP, said the developer scaled back the plan significantly after several iterations with Reston’s Design Review Board earlier this year. The latest plan reduces the overall mass of the project from 91,000 to 65,000 square feet, including a reduction of 21 units and 34 beds, attempts to create a more residential-style building and eliminates one floor of the building, he said.

Despite these revisions, residents said the project was too large and too overwhelming for the south side of Sunrise Valley Drive, an area they said was intended to remain largely residential and offer a hard break between high-intensity, high-density land uses in other parts of the community.

Jane Anthony, a resident of the Wethersfield Cluster since the late 1970s, said the project was more appropriate for the Dulles Toll Road Corridor where it would not “disturb the peace” of a long-standing residential community and infringe on the privacy of a commercial convenience center near the site.

“It is shoehorned into a very small area… growth is good but not at the expense of the quality of life of residents,” she said.

Others said the project did provide adequate buffering between a townhouse community on Approach Lane that faces the site. Lynwood Patin, a resident who testified in opposition to the plan, said the plan was “intimidating and overbearing,” providing clear “visual access over privacy fences on Approach Lane.”

Looney, however, said residents have not yet accepted the developer’s offer to enhance landscaping and buffering on the street opposite of the site. He also said the privacy concern “works both ways” for nearby residents and those in the living facility.

“The applicant wants to be a good long-term neighbor to them,” he said.

Others like Stephen Cerny, president of the Wethersfield Cluster Association, said the project wholly violated the spirit of Reston’s Master Plan by overwhelming a small site in an area that he said was intended to remain a “status quo” area on the south side of Sunrise Valley Drive.

James Hart, an at-large member of the committee, however, said the plan did not contain any specific guidance that the building was too large or incompatible with the area. The county’s zoning allows the developer to seek a special exception to permit a medical care facility, which is classified as an allowed institutional use, he said.

Looney also noted that the land’s by-right uses could also allow for a more intense, high-density residential development than what Kensington Senior Development has proposed.

The Planning Commission will continue to hear the case in the upcoming weeks. A decision on the petition was deferred Thursday.

Photo via handout

  • OneReally

    The founder didn’t envision old people or a graveyard. Application denied!!!


    • The Constitutionalist

      Apparently he did envision a whole load of people who can’t afford to live here propped up by those who can. At least if you listen to everyone else.

      • SuperCoop1280

        two thumbs up!

      • OneReally

        dilly dilly!

      • Greg

        Simon, the developer, followed the money. In fact, I believe his heirs, estate, or both still collects rent from the Lake Anne branch of the RCC (that is, the Reston taxpayers of special tax district 5).

        Check tax map # 0172 31 1609B

        here: http://icare.fairfaxcounty.gov/ffxcare/search/commonsearch.aspx?mode=parid

        • John Higgins

          You are partially correct, although as I recall, he set the rent for the county far below market rate. But there is a side story. Perhaps the former tenant will share with us. There was a small bazaar there, selling goods from many nations. R.E.S. would not renew the lease, forcing them to collapse and lose a significant investment; with them gone, he was able to make space for RCC.
          Dilly, dilly.

          • Greg

            Wow. I recall the original Soviet-sized Safeway, then what I recall as a small mercado (perhaps the bazaar?) and a gym: Body by Geoff. His logo was on the clockface.

            I think I will do some digging next week and get my hands on the RCC’s leases and finances. Leila just loves when I come calling.

            Although rent far below a market of near $0 is what?

          • John Higgins

            I see that RCC now pays some $300,000 per year for “real estate rent”. Apart from the space at the Plaza, I don’t know where that money is going. Perhaps Mr. Simons generosity had an expiration date.

          • Greg

            Incidentally, and not to digress too far, but what happened to Jasmine Cafe? If my recollection is correct, it closed suddenly over some sort of landlord dispute. And then
            Chef Eduardo all but disappeared.

            Oh, how I miss the Jasmine Cafe’s portabello sandwich.

          • Scott

            Jasmine cafe didn’t pay their rent b/c no one went to Lake Anne plaza and were evicted. Unfortunately they closed before RTC’s boneheaded parking scheme revitalized the plaza to a degree. It’s good to be Kalypso’s, LA Coffee House and bistro, and LA Brew house.

          • John Higgins

            Eduardo was highly respected as a responsible citizen-merchant and his restaurant was excellent. It was sad to see him go.

        • OneReally

          The king’s beer fund.

          Dilly Dilly!

        • Mike M

          Blasphemy! Dare not besmirch our Saint.

      • cRAzy

        If you want to live in an isolated elitist community, move to Great Falls.

        • The Constitutionalist

          If you want to live in a nice area that will soon be a slum, stay here.

    • Best comment 2017


    • Elisabeth Fopp

      Apart from the issues of the proper location or size of the proposed Kensington Assisted Living Facility, on which I shall not comment because I do not feel competent to do so, I resent the comment by OneReally as totally out of place. One of the founding principles of Reston was that it is a place for people of all ages, incomes, races, ethnicities, religions, etc. In essence, a welcoming community for all, from the beginning of life through to its end.
      And yes, I am in the 77th year of my life. I am living in Reston, and I hope to die in Reston.

      • 40yearsinreston

        Those who.welcomed Hudgens regret it

      • OneReally

        I will respect my elders and be brief with my comment.

        I hope you know I was just making a joke. 🙂
        Congrats on 77 years of life.

      • Mike M

        OK, so how many people, cars, and buildings do we need? You see, Elisabeth, you are talking about diversity. OR was talking about density.
        PS: I hope you live a long time in Reston and enjoy it. But for those of us who get out and about, . . . it is getting harder.

      • Greg

        “…a welcoming community for all, from the beginning of life through to its end.”

        Then where’s the cemetery? Or funeral parlor? Or hospice?

        End of life has no home here.

  • Starla Vitori

    If Kensington is allowed to plunk this giantic building in this small area then South Reston Home owners are doomed. Pandora’s Box will be opened ! Resist the Wrong Kind of Growth!!!!

    • SuperCoop1280

      I agree with you but I feel that part of South Reston is already doomed. High crime rates as this is near the Hunters Wood Plaza. While any spot is already a bad spot, this is a dangerous area to place a seniors community.

      • John Higgins

        If this goes through, the seniors residing there can rest easy. It is 1.5 miles from Hunters Woods and 1.2 miles from South Lakes Village Center. Of course, that cuts both ways: these living facilities are supposed to be located so as to provide convenient access to retail services. Kensington would be hard pressed to find a more inconvenient location for their project.

        • Mike M

          John, it’s in a transit area. See, these folks can skip over to Metro and get wherever they wanna go! Or, they can leverage our awesome bike program. Our leaders have given us solutions, John. Why can’t we be more grateful?

          • John Higgins

            Thank you, Mike. I am now ashamed of myself. How selfish of me put the interests of 65 property owners here, and the already faded image of what we thought was Reston ahead of the interests of the lovely couple who will sell this land to Kensington if the project is approved.
            Viva Ballston!

    • John Higgins

      Starla, I’m shocked that you call this “gigantic”. The building would be a mere 450 feet wide (1.5 football fields) and occupies only 85% of the1.8 acres of the site. Surely one would not conclude that placing this building 100 feet from the nearest row of townhouses is out of place.

    • Ryan

      Pandora was already opened on Colts Neck.

      • 40yearsinreston

        Dont mention the urban slum aka RTC

  • Greg

    A rather dark and dreary long Prairie-style wannabe building? FLW would not approve.

  • 40yearsinreston

    Almost bought in Wethersfield >30 years ago
    Dodged a bullet

  • Mason Miller

    This site is already zoned to allow a restaurant.

    • John Higgins

      Perhaps. I’ve not considered that because no one has proposed building a restaurant. Is the point that a restaurant is at the bottom of the food chain (pun intended) of uses, and if it’s permissible, then anything else is better? That would make an interesting discussion.

      But the objection here is not to the use of the site; rather, the mass and scope of the proposed project. We agonized through a Reston Master Plan process because some believed it better to plan ahead for how the community develops rather than jab at these issues one parcel at a time based on current whim. Our planners saw this site as a transition between modest residential use and a commercial parcel (convenience center.) Kensington’s proposal represents no transition. The building is massive, both in reality and in context. Had the same size structure been proposed as government offices, a clinic, a library or a fire station, the same community response would have arisen. It’s too massive for the site and our representatives have let us down.


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