In what one Fairfax supervisor called a "drastic change" in existing plans, the major landowners in rural Centreville presented a plan last week that seeks to transform what was envisioned as a predominantly residential area into a massive high-rise office-commercial center.
The developers' plan would double the density recommended by a citizens' task force for Centreville's 3,000-acre central area and make office and commercial development the primary focus.
The two principal developers -- John T. (Til) Hazel and the Cadillac Fairview Co. -- would build a combined 6 million square feet of office and commercial space in the heart of Centreville, twice the amount of business development recommended by the study group and county planners.
Those planners have warned that the builder-backed plan, prepared by the Fairfax consulting firm Dewberry & Davis, could produce traffic gridlock in southwestern Fairfax County, one of the few largely undeveloped areas remaining in the county.
"We can all draw lines on a map and say we can accommodate development if the roads are going to be there, but that begs the question: Who's going to build them?" said Shiva K. Pant, county transportation director. "We don't have the money to do it."
But David D. Fitch, vice president of Cadillac-Fairview, said his company had completed "an expensive amount of transportation studies" and will submit them to county officials within two weeks to buttress the proposed development.
To help win the county's support for their proposal, the Hazel-Peterson and Cadillac-Fairview companies have promised to finance construction of an interchange at Rtes. 28 and 29, where most of the forthcoming development will be targeted.
Also recommended in the developers' proposal, according to county planning officials:
*For the Hazel-Peterson property, which encompasses 408 acres in the southwestern quadrant of the Rte. 28-29 intersection, a large office park with twice the density recommended by the citizens' task force. Hazel-Peterson would need a master plan revision to allow proper zoning for the site.
Hazel was out of town last week and could not be reached for comment.
*For the Cadillac-Fairview property, a 112-acre tract at the opposite corner, the developers' proposal calls for 3 million to 3.5 million square feet of office construction, 100,000 square feet of retail space, 500 hotel rooms but no residential development.
The task force recommended 1.8 million square feet of office development, 250,000 square feet of retail space, 300 hotel rooms and 1,200 apartments for the Cadillac-Fairview property.
Both the thrust and the timing of the developers' plan have triggered a furor in Fairfax County, where the government-appointed task force had been working for two years on a comprehensive plan for Centreville.
In its report, the task force acknowledges that Centreville is a prime development spot but urges that the development take on a residential character. It also urges that the growth be gradual and coincide with the development of an adequate road network.
The task force plan, which was presented to the county Planning Commission as scheduled last Tuesday night, will be up for final review before the commission on Tuesday and then before the Board of Supervisors on Feb. 10. Those hearings were designed to conclude an effort the board started in 1982 when it created the task force to chart Centreville's development.
County officials and residents have sharply criticized the developers for waiting until so late to submit their counterproposal.
"They didn't show much sensitivity by coming in at the last minute," said Michael R. Frey, administrative assistant to Supervisor Elaine N. McConnell (R-Springfield). "We expected some modifications, but this is a radical departure from the task force report."
McConnell, whose district includes Centreville, said she was "shocked" to learn of the "drastic change" proposed by the developers.
McConnell said she nonetheless would support a delay in the public hearing schedule to reconsider the issue. "The task force is going to have to be reconvened to look at it," she said. "We don't want them to feel that their work has been for nothing."
Moreover, McConnell said, a delay is necessary to review the transportation needs for the area. She said the task force fell short of the county's goal of devising an adequate road network for Centreville.
McConnell's call for a delay was opposed by Richard Korink, a Centreville resident and chairman of the citizens' study team. "We've spent two years on this. It's time to move forward," he said.