Everyone is sort of uneasy in Fairhaven these days. The 35-year-old subdivision, one of the oldest in Fairfax County, just turned down an opportunity to receive hundreds of thousands of dollars in federal funds to upgrade itself.
Officials at Fairfax County's Department of Housing and Community Development say the funds, were intended to preserve Fairhaven as one of the few sources of moderate income housing in the county amid the increasing commercial development in the area of Fairfax County just south of Alexandria.
Fairhaven residents who opposed taking the funds say too many restrictions were attached to the money and that the county should make improvements to their community out of the taxes they pay.
Other Fairhaven residents who would have welcomed the federal money (available) through a neighborhood conservation program) say the opponents have their eye on encroaching commercial development and on the developers who might want to buy Fairhaven property at inflated prices. A building boom is anticipated around the nearby Huntington Metro station, which is due to open in three years.
To these arguments, Housing Authority spokeswoman Deirdre Coyne says, "It's a case of misinformation. Fairhaven residents can sell to anybody tehy want any time they want under the conservation program; they just won't believe it."
Nevertheless, although the residents could sell to anyone they wanted to, there is a question of how much they would be paid. A neighborhood conservation program would make it difficult to change the area's current residential zoning, perhaps blocking its use for commercial development , while some residents apparently are counting on the higher prices that would be paid for land by a commercial developer.
Coyne added that she thinks the housing authority still will make available to Fairhaven $120,000 in federal funds that were slated this year for upgrading and improving the neighborhood. That money would be used to correct soil erosion and install traffic lights, storm drainage gutters and sidewalks.
"If they had accepted the conservation program, they would have had higher priority in the future for other federal funds," Coyne said. "It's unlikely they have much of a chance now when they refuse to make assurances that they will keep the residential nature of their community."
That refusal came last Thursday by an unofficial vote of 94 to 51 taken at a civic association meeting.
"We just don't want to be told now we are to live and what we should be," said Violet Taylor of 2506 Fairhaven Ave. "We just don't want to close off our options if it happens that we are bottlenecked by commercial development in the future."
"We applied for that federal money back in November," said Fairhaven Civic Association President Ben Bayne. "We want to be held to this complicated conversation business."
Warren Cikins, who represents the Fairhaven area on the County Board of Supervisors, said he was "saddened" by the community's choice not to enter the program:
"They are giving up great improvements on the chance of getting a possible economic windfall (through selling to commercial ventures)." Cikins said. "I just want to make it understood that area is very clearly residential and there is very little likelihood it will change." Fairhaven is already designated as residential development in Fairfax County's master land use plan.
The Wolftrap Citizens Association, representing a small residential pocket near Tysons Corner rejected a similar community development grant last year for many of the same reasons given this year by the Fairhaven residents.