Residents of three Fairfax County neighborhoods are working to block final approval of a proposed townhouse development that would provide 100 subsidized housing units for low-income families in their community.
Final approval of Rolling Road Estates, on Rolling Road between the Newington Station and Saratoga subdivisions, will be considered by the Virginia Housing Authority in Richmond Nov. 15. The townhouses would be available to families with an annual income of between $8,100 and $20,300. More than 130 residents of Chancellor Farms, Newington Station and Saratoga met at Kings Park Library last week to discuss the proposed development and plan strategy with Springfield Supervisor Marie Travesky, Delegate Robert Harris and Jack Herrity, chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors.
Travesky took a step on behalf of the group last week with the introduction of a resolution requesting a public hearing on the project and expressing the community's desapproval. The Board of Supervisors approved the resolution Monday by a 5-4 vote, requiring that the subsudized housing project be discussed in a public hearing before the county's Redevelopment and Housing Authority. No date was set immediately for the hearing.
Harris told the group that he also would let the housing authority in Richmond know of the community's feelings.
Earlier, Travesky and Harris were able to delay the final state consideration from Oct. 18 to Nov. 15.
Petitions are being sent to the state housing authority, and, if all else fails, the group may take legal action to try to delay and eventually stop the project.
Mark Kramer of Newington Station, who organized last week's meeting of residents, said he had only recently learned of the proposed development but that he and others had already collected 1,300 signatures on petitions protesting the project. He said he was against it, because the project would place 100 low-income units in one complex.
"There would be no other peer pressure or examples from other howmowners in such things as proper maintenance," he told the gathering."It is only subsidized units."
Other reasons for opposing the project, he said, are the lack of medical services in the remote area, the lack of public transportation, the already overcrowded schools and lack of plans for more schools, the lack of tax revenues for support services and schools and, finally, the lack of recreational facilities in teh area.
According to Alvin Smuzynski of Saratoga, who gave a history of the application to the residents at the meeting, the first letter to the Northern Virginia District Planning Commission was sent on June 23.
He said the developer, from Pittsburgh, holds an option on the 35.4 acres and that it is zoned properly, at five units per acre, for the requested townhouse development. Therefore, no zoning hearing was required, he said.
A county policy of not allowing more than 50 public housing units in one spot was not applied by the county in this case, because Rolling Road Estates, as a private development, is not technically public housing, he said. The project also had been approved for HUD construction funds, and an environmental impact report had been filed, said Smuzynski.
As a result, the project was given "pro forma" approval by the county executive and the district planning commission staff in August, he said.
Travesky said at the meeting that the project "slipped through the cracks" and that she did not know about it until it had been passed on to the state for final approval.
Since then, she said, she has notified the civic associations in Chancellor Farms, Saratoga and Newington Station, and she is requesting a public hearing.
"Everybody has a right to know what is going to be built in their community," she told the group. She advised them to stick to the immediate goal of reversing the approval and to work on tightening and redefining the county housing policy later.
Herrity gave a pep talk. "You've got to be dedicated to your goal. Remember this a game of hardball," he told the potential neighbors of the project. He said that it was a "sad state of affairs when something like this can be built without any imput from the citizens of the community."
Harris said that two things would work in favor of those opposing the project. They are the local government, in this case the board of supervisors, recommending against approval of the project, and political muscle powered by strong citizen concern.
"The bottom line is that you are here by choice," he said. "You moved here for your family. It is a serious concern."
Kramer told the group that if it is necessary to sue, they are going to need more support and perhaps money for legal fees from the community groups and civic associations.
"I'm just looking at the alternatives," he said. "There are 1,600 homes that will be immediately affected by this decision."
Of those approximately 1.600 units, there are 38 low-income units in the Newington Station development, Travesky said.