Proposed McMillen Farm Subdivision in Herndon Moves Forward

Despite concerns about transparency, the Fairfax County Planning Commission has recommended approval of a new subdivision at McMillen Farm last week.

Tradition Homes, LLC, requested 5.76 acres of land east of Dranesville Road be rezoned from one residential dwelling unit per acre to three residential dwelling units per acre to allow for the construction of 13 homes.

Lots range in size from 11,650 square feet to 25,840 square feet along a new cul-de-sac connected to Dranesville Road. The site was home to McMillen Farm, listed as a heritage resource on the Fairfax County Inventory of Historic Sites since February 1996.

Still unclear is the ultimate fate of Coomber Hall, a dairy barn county documents say date back to 1850. It was remodeled in 1968 to serve as a school of music and dance. However, since April 2017 the Hall has been classified as an unsafe structure due to significant damage to the roof and walls.

In response to public discussion on Sept. 20 concerning the historic buildings at an earlier meeting, attorney Shane Murphy said historic preservation measures on the site would include the hay barn.

“In my view, the overall revisions are appropriate and important revision steps [that address] the concerns raised by the Planning Commission,” said John Ulfelder, a planning commissioner representing Dranesville District.

But Phillip Niedzielski-Eichner, a planning commissioner representing Providence District, said state legislation limiting discussion of rezoning conditions left him unable to fully question the development proposal’s plans for historic resources on the site.

“The norms and practices of this commission are to freely, openly and transparently ask questions of staff, applicant and speakers,” said Niedzielski-Eichner. “I was not confident… I could craft questions without running afoul of new proffer laws. I was disturbed staff and colleagues both referenced proffer law as constricting our ability to engage applicant on land use matters.”

Niedzielski-Eichner abstained, but the remaining eleven planning commissioners voted to approve the rezoning. The rezoning application now goes to the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors but has not been docketed for a meeting.

Photo via Newmark Grubb Knight Frank

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