Where We Live: Kingstowne, a vast planned community with hyperlocal traditions


Semi-detached homes sit on a street in Kingstowne. Among Fairfax County’s planned communities, only Reston is larger. (Eliza McGraw/FOR THE WASHINGTON POST)
November 22, 2013

For Angie Sawyer, residing in Fairfax County’s Kingstowne community is like living in a neighborhood within a neighborhood.

Communities within Kingstowne develop their own traditions. For instance, Nottingham, where Sawyer lives, is active in a crime-prevention event called National Night Out, she says. Nottingham residents also do annual collections for school supplies and food banks, and this year they added support for the Wounded Warriors campaign.

Sawyer’s neighborhood has several hyperlocal traditions.

“One of our more notable ones is that we have ‘Palm Tree Nights’ where the hosting neighbor gets to put the electric palm tree outside their house as a signal that other neighbors are welcome to stop by that evening for happy hour, snacks and neighborly conversation,” Sawyer said. “This has proven to be a really great way for neighbors to really get to know each other.”

Kingstowne is the second-largest planned community in Fairfax County, says 13-year ­resident Allen Hausman, with Reston being the largest. It contains apartments, condominium units, townhouses and single-family homes and has two community centers, two large pool complexes, tennis courts, fitness facilities, and a wide variety of neighborhood clubs and sponsored events.


Each neighborhood has an English-themed name that’s lettered on a low wall — in addition to Nottingham, they include Canterbury, Belford and Yorkshire. People are invited to rate the community,” said Hausman, who is a representative to the Neighborhood Advisory Board (NAB), “and the number one thing they say is they like the way the streets look, planting flowers in front of the neighborhood walls, so it gives a cohesive look.”


Ties to Defense Department:
Another element that distinguishes life in Kingstowne is that “it has many residents with connections to the military,” said Hausman.

Because of its proximity to both the Pentagon and Fort Belvoir, Kingstowne is a popular place to live for members of the military; there is a Navy Federal Credit Union in the shopping center.

“My neighbors include lots of people who work at Fort Belvoir or the Pentagon,” Hausman said. “When we say thank you for service, these are the people who have had combat experience, and are now at the Pentagon. When we rented, five of the neighbors were FBI or DEA agents. It was the safest street in America, and every driveway had a silver Crown Victoria in it.”


Some regulations eased:
Sawyer says Kingstowne Residential Owners Corp., the homeowners association, promotes the election of NAB reps, such as her and Hausman, who help communicate key information from the larger HOA back to these smaller communities.

As with any community with a homeowners association, there are regulations concerning homes’ appearance. Kingstowne’s staff does a semiannual inspection and then sends out letters about shabby paint, overgrown lawns or other problems.

“I became an adult in the ’60s, so I have a certain rebelliousness against rules,” Hausman said. Rules once dictated that residents required permission for minor changes, he said, but the process is more streamlined now.

A modernized review procedure allows residents to go online and find the permitted changes. “They have taken away the tension that existed for 90 percent of the changes. The board of trustees have responded to changes that people want to make,” Hausman said.


Living there:
Kingstowne is a large planned community of 5,500 homes located on the western edge of Alexandria just outside the Capital Beltway. Residents refer to the Kingstowne area as both the community of Kingstowne itself and the surrounding neighborhoods in Zip code 22315 and parts of 22310. The general boundaries are Franconia Road to the north, Van Dorn Street to the east, Telegraph Road to the south and Beulah Street to the west.

In the past 12 months, 23 detached single-family homes were sold in Kingstowne proper, says Lenny Marsh, a real estate agent with Long and Foster. Two were short sales, and two were foreclosures. The price range was from $370,000 to $810,000. During that time, 172 townhomes were sold, ranging in price from $299,950 to $623,000. Seven of these were short sales, and one was a bank-owned foreclosure property.

A shopping mall with ample parking and suburban big-box stores such as Kohl’s and World Market, as well as a Giant Food supermarket, anchors Kingstowne. The area is pedestrian-friendly, with trees, a movie theater and sidewalk seating for some restaurants. A Wal-Mart sits adjacent to Kingstowne, and Hausman says that residents are excited about the new Wegmans supermarket that will open next year in the Hilltop Village Center, at Beulah Street and Telegraph Road.


Schools:
Students attend several Fairfax County schools. Those living on the north side of Kingstowne attend Twain Middle and Edison High, and those on the south side of Kingstowne attend Hayfield Secondary School, which encompasses middle and high schools. Elementary schools include Lane, Island Creek, Franconia and Hayfield.


Transit:
For commuters, Kingstowne is at the center of a confluence of roads that lead into Washington, Alexandria and Arlington. Many make the two-mile drive to the Franconia-Springfield Metro station.


Crime:
According to the Fairfax County Police Department, this year there were six reports of aggravated assault, eight reports of burglary and six reports of robbery.

Eliza McGraw is a freelance writer.

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