Despite opposition from a neighboring townhouse community, the Fairfax County Planning Commission approved a plan to replace a daycare center with a 70-unit assisted living facility on 11501 Sunrise Valley Drive Thursday night.
Members of the body, which provides recommendations to the county’s Board of Supervisors, said the developer Kensington Senior Development worked closely with the county to reduce the size and scale of the building, which is nearly eight times larger than the current structure, to ensure the proposal was in line with county policies and regulations.
At a Nov. 30 public hearing, residents unanimously opposed the proposal, which they said was too large for the site and incompatible with the community south of Sunrise Valley Drive. The proposal calls for a two-to-three story building with roughly 65,000 square feet and a parking garage.
However, Frank de la Fe, the commissioner for the Hunter Mill District, said the location of the facility near small, residential neighborhoods was not unusual or concerning, especially since a local healthcare advisory committee emphasized the need for the center and because the developer scaled back its development proposal.
He also noted the plan had adequate buffering to screen surrounding neighborhoods from the facility.
“I’m not quite sure what [the neighbors] would be satisfied with next door in a redevelopment situation,” de la Fe said.
Although the case was “close” and “difficult,” James Hart, an at-large member, said the developer’s plan met a critical need in Fairfax County for assisted living facilities for seniors in an area where he said developable land is “running out.”
“I think it would’ve been an easier case if it was a smaller building but it meets all of the requirements in the plan and in the ordinance,” Hart said, adding that the rhythm of the building was very similar to townhouse development.
However, at-large member Mary Cortina said the size of the facility was stretched out to reduce its height, leaving people who use the facility with little to no amenities and diminished quality of life.
The developer has committed to working with neighborhoods to provide additional landscaping to create a larger buffer and was willing to contribute funding for pedestrian and bicycle improvements in the area, according to the commission.
The managing partner of a convenience center next to the proposed facility also supported the plan. Good Beginning School, the daycare has been open on the site for nearly 40 years.
The county’s Board of Supervisors will consider the proposal next year.
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
Progress to bring a 91-unit assisted-living facility to 11501 Sunrise Valley Drive continues as Kensington Senior Development goes before Fairfax County’s Planning Commission this week.
A public hearing on the project, which has been reworked over the last several months, is scheduled for Thursday at 8:15 p.m. in the Fairfax County Government Center (12000 Government Center Parkway).
The assisted living facility would replace a 7,600-square foot building currently used as a child care center by Good Beginnings School. The building was built in 1978.
The latest plans include significant alterations from previous versions, including a reduction from five stories to either two or three stories. The facility will include up to 105 beds and up to 75 rooms. The plan also includes 67 parking garage spaces and recreations and amenity space for residents on the ground floor patio.
In a staff report, the county’s Department of Planning and Zoning recommended approval of the plan, which was submitted last year.
Photo via handout