Developer, residents at odds over Fairfax child-care center

Developer James W. Jackson holds blueprints for a child-care center he wants to build on land he purchased in Vienna in 2007. "I thought it was a no-brainer," he says. "I could not see that this would not work."
Developer James W. Jackson holds blueprints for a child-care center he wants to build on land he purchased in Vienna in 2007. "I thought it was a no-brainer," he says. "I could not see that this would not work." (For The Washington Post)

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Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, March 8, 2011; 8:09 PM

A Fairfax developer, who also works for the county, is at odds with local officials and residents over plans to build a child-care center they say would spoil the serenity of the community and cause traffic backups during rush hour.

James W. Jackson, a design and construction manager with the Fairfax County Department of Housing and Community Development, has led a successful second career building subdivisions and operating two child-care centers in Reston and Fairfax.

But he's been unsuccessful in winning approval for a third center he wants to build at the busy intersection of Route 123 and Sutton Road in Vienna. The Lord Fairfax Academy would accommodate 150 children in a 35-foot-tall brick building, with no more than 120 on-site at one time, and would include a parking lot and a playground. Neighbors say it would stick out among the two-story single-family homes.

"That's a big building. It's not going to fit in here very well with what's surrounding it," said Patricia Morton, who lives on a nearby cul-de-sac.

Jackson, whose Horizon Child Development Center operates two child-care facilities with 33 employees, said he was drawn to the site facing Route 123. He purchased the lot for $1.1 million in March 2007. Because the land is zoned for residential use, he applied for a rezoning request and a special exception in 2008. The proposal was later scaled back and is now being considered for a special exception only.

Jackson said that he thought the project would have its challenges but that it would ultimately be approved.

"I thought it was a no-brainer," he said. "I could not see that this would not work."

Jackson, who grew up in rural Rappahannock County and has developed subdivisions in the area since the 1980s, said he doesn't understand the delays.

"It's been through scrutiny that I feel is above and beyond," he said. "They are making it more complicated than it needs to be, so they can say it doesn't work."

Over two years, Jackson's application has been deferred by the Planning Commission and modified six times to meet the county's concerns. His company has pledged road improvements and reduced the capacity from 200 to 150 children.

At a public hearing in February, the Planning Commission agreed with county staff that the application should be denied. The request now goes to the Board of Supervisors for another public hearing, at 2:30 p.m. March 29, and a final vote.

At issue is the impact the Lord Fairfax Academy would have on rush-hour traffic. Jackson proposed building a new turn lane to help traffic flow and agreed to donate land in the event that Route 123 is widened one day.


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