The Falls Church City Council found this week that residents were overwhelmingly opposed to a developer's request to build town houses on the largest undeveloped tract in the city.
About 25 speakers said Monday night that they opposed town house development on the seven-acre parcel, which is zoned for single-family detached homes. They also submitted a petition opposing rezoning that was signed by 1,100 citizens.
Only two speakers supported the rezoning plan presented by Ken Jennings, president of Jennings Properties Inc.
Jennings is asking the city to rezone the wooded tract, which sits in the midst of a single-family neighborhood, to allow him to build five detached homes along East Jefferson Street and 43 town houses behind them.
The land stretches back from the road to Four Mile Run and is just east of Washington Street (Rte. 29).
In exchange for higher density, Jennings has offered to dedicate 1.7 acres of the tract along Four Mile Run for a city park, build an access road from Washington Street to the development, build a bike trail along the edge of the development and contribute $100,000 to scheduled city improvements to the Four Mile Run channel.
But residents argued that town houses are unwanted in the single-family neighborhood and that the proposed rezoning would set a dangerous precedent for other single-family neighborhoods.
"Denying the Jennings request is a necessary step in preserving Falls Church's unique atmosphere," said Joyce Hall, who lives near the site.
Terrence O'Grady, former city attorney who has been hired by opponents of the plan, told council members if they approve the rezoning, "you will have given birth . . . to a kind of creeping cluster."
"Precedent-setting is a valid concern," he said.
"We want single-family homes, trees and nice neighborhoods," said resident Craig Damper.
"This is truly a landmark proposal with grave consequences," said council member Edward Strait.
"It is my view the present zoning is right for the area . . . I think we should all be concerned with the precedent setting . . . my recommendation is that we deny the change in zoning when it comes to us."
The proposal is scheduled for Planning Commission action next Monday night and will return to the council Dec. 14.
Residents were more evenly divided over a city proposal to start a home for troubled teen-age girls from Falls Church and Arlington at 407 Little Falls St., a now-empty home owned by Shefer Schools Inc..
City officials have a contract to buy the 1.2-acre property for $415,000.
The contract is contingent on several factors, including approval of a special-use permit by the city's Board of Zoning Appeals and adoption of the proposal by the council.
Officials are proposing to house up to 12 girls between the ages of 13 and 17. The girls would be referred by the juvenile court and would include runaways, truants, abused or neglected teen-agers and delinquents convicted of minor, nonviolent crimes.
Five citizens spoke in opposition to the proposal, while eight supported it.
Most of the opposition came from neighbors of the proposed facility, who said they were concerned about a rise in crime and a possible decrease in property values.
James Slattery said he did not think the city had demonstrated a need for such a facility.
"I think it is just an abuse of your power to try to push this through," Slattery told the council.
Nancy Stock, a former council member, said, "These are members of our society that need our help."
The Board of Zoning Appeals will consider the proposal Nov. 12 and the council is scheduled to act on the matter Nov. 23.