Decision deferred on tweaks to residential development near Innovation Metro

A residential development named One Sunrise Valley is planned near the Frying Pan Road and Sunrise Valley Drive intersection in Herndon (via Fairfax County)

The plan for a major residential neighborhood near the Innovation Center Metro station in the Herndon area is evolving.

But the tweak won’t be approved by the Fairfax County Planning Commission until April 24 at the earliest. With no discussion, the commission voted on Wednesday (Feb. 28) to defer a public hearing on an application to amend the development plan.

Under the name Bittersweet Fields LLC, land owner and developer Pomeroy Clark I is seeking to revise its plan for One Sunrise Valley, which envisions up to 1,093 residential units across nearly 43.8 acres of land in the northwest quadrant of the Frying Pan Road and Sunrise Valley Drive intersection near Dulles International Airport.

A 5.5-acre portion of the currently vacant site will be transferred to Fairfax County Public Schools for a future elementary school. One of the five lots that originally comprised One Sunrise Valley was sold to Van Metre Homes, which is building 157 single-family attached units and 36 two-over-twos on their property.

Approved by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors in 2019, the original rezoning application left the door open for two paths forward: one that would total 519 residential units — 335 traditional townhomes and 180 stacked townhomes (two-over-two units) — and one with up to 1,093 units — 276 townhomes, 144 two-over-two units and three multi-family buildings with up to 729 units.

One Sunrise Valley developer Bittersweet Fields LLC is seeking to amend its plan for land units C and D, outlined in yellow (via Fairfax County)

The developer is now seeking to implement the second option with an amendment that would allow for either 54 triplex units or 36 two-over-two units and a 296-unit multi-family building on a parcel dubbed Land Unit C that was approved for 24 2-over-2 units and a 145-unit multi-family building.

The developer has also proposed to build 69 triplex units instead of the 84 stacked townhouses that were approved for the adjacent Land Unit D, a change that would apply to both development options, according to a county staff report.

The tweaks would create flexibility that the developer argues “will further the Comprehensive Plan goals of creating a vibrant mixed-use, pedestrian-friendly community while establishing a greater variety of residential uses that furthers housing diversity in this area of Fairfax County.”

This week’s scheduled public hearing was an extension of one that began at the planning commission’s Jan. 31 meeting, where two access gates proposed on the eastern side of the nearly 43.8-acre site emerged as a point of contention between county staff and Pomeroy Clark I, which was represented by McGuireWoods senior land use planner Lori Greenlief.

County planner Sharon Williams told the commission that staff have recommended dropping the gates from the plan, because they could “impede circulation and may impact pedestrian movement along the sidewalks.”

However, Greenlief said the developer has a “significant and real concern” about separating the planned multi-family residential building from a parking lot for the future school.

“Elementary schools typically generate long lines of cars at drop-off and pick-up, and parents typically find ways to avoid staying in those long lines. The parking lot will be a convenient place to pull in and park and walk the very short block to the school,” she said. “So, it really becomes a quality of life and potential safety issue for the residents if parents are using those parking spaces and/or stopping in the drive aisles.”

Greenlief confirmed that the developer is open to locking the gates before and after the school pick-up and drop-off times and potentially during school events, as opposed to 24-hour closures.

Braddock District Commissioner Mary Cortina questioned why the developer wants to add gates when it’s asking to waive transitional screening and landscaping between the residential building and school.

“The school, once it’s built, would probably be concerned about the people who live in the multi-family [building] parking on the school grounds, and so, this goes both ways,” Cortina said. “Being cooperative with your neighbors, I think, is the solution there.”

Angela Woolsey contributed to this report.

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