Residents in Arlington's Claremont neighborhood are appealing to county officials for relief from the proposed construction of an apartment complex in neighboring Fairfax County. They say the influx of residents will snarl traffic, gobble up street parking and threaten the safety of children as they walk to and from school.
Opponents of the project say the 390-unit Fairfield development, proposed to be built near the intersection of South George Mason Drive and Leesburg Pike in Fairfax, will greatly increase traffic on Arlington's nearby Dinwiddie Street, which is a major thoroughfare for school buses and motorists traveling to Wakefield High school and Claremont Elementary schools.
Residents say the development will increase traffic in and out of their community by 1,100 car trips a day, threatening pedestrian safety.
While residents say they are in favor of development on the property, they contend that the proposed apartment complex will be too densely populated for the community of mostly single-family homes.
"The central issues are the traffic and the parking overflow," said Mark Buchholz, president of the Claremont Citizens Association. "You have a huge potential for conflict and accidents."
On June 22, Claremont homeowners and residents from the neighboring Columbia Forest area in Arlington, as well as those from the adjacent Skyline Village townhouse complex in Fairfax County, met with a representative of the developers, Fairfield Residential. In addition to presenting their concerns, residents asked Arlington County government officials for their support with the remediation of traffic and parking problems.
Chief among the residents' recommendations is that the developer move one of the apartment buildings' proposed garage entrances from South 14th Street to either Leesburg Pike or South George Mason Drive to prevent an increase of traffic on Dinwiddie Street.
The development is "not in Arlington, and they're not taking into consideration the additional stress that it will have on Arlington resources and our neighborhood in particular," said Claremont resident Marjie Shapiro, who lives on Dinwiddie Street and described traffic as being at its worst in the morning rush hour.
The addition of an apartment development would only exacerbate the problem, she said, noting that "sometimes it's already hard to just get out of your driveway."
Jay Johnson, project manager for the Fairfield development, said the company is working with the community to resolve lingering concerns, although, he said, there may continue to be disagreement about the size and scope of the project.
"We think we've done a good job with the plan and with assessing the impact to the neighborhood," Johnson said. "We're just trying to keep a dialogue open with [the Claremont Citizens Association] to see how else we can be good neighbors."
Steven Pike, secretary of the Skyline Village condo association, said residents of the 30-unit association are concerned about whether the developers have thoroughly considered the impact the development will have on the community, particularly its effect on traffic along already congested South George Mason Drive.
"It's not that people are opposed to development and doing something with the land," Pike said. "But there's an aspect of [the proposal] that makes you ask, 'Is this the right fit?' "
Arlington County Board member Barbara A. Favola (D) agreed that there are issues to be hammered out with the developer but said she believes resolutions can be achieved. To that end, she is trying to get Arlington County staff invited to participate in discussions about the project with the developer and Fairfax County staff.
"I don't know how successful we'll be, but we do have a good relationship with Fairfax," Favola said.
Fairfax County Supervisor Penelope A. Gross (D) represents the Mason District, where the Fairfield development would be built. She said she is aware of neighbors' concerns but believes they are largely unfounded: She said ample garage parking is being provided to prevent local streets from being congested with parked cars. Sidewalks, she said, will be built to accommodate pedestrians.
As for residents' fears that excess traffic will clog Dinwiddie Street, Gross said that is unlikely.
"If you have a choice of taking a six-lane main road or a four-lane, why would you take a residential road to get where you're going?" Gross said.
"There may perhaps be some traffic on Dinwiddie, but most of it will focus on George Mason Drive and Route 7. That's what happens now, and I imagine that's what will happen then, too."
The development is still under review by Fairfax County and the plan will go back before the Mason District Land Use Committee later this month.