Developer Michael Hadid has bought himself half a junkyard.
Hadid and the John G. Georgelas & Sons development firm of McLean this week purchased a junkyard full of old cars that has been called "one of McLean's best neighbors."
Hadid and Georgelas said they planned to build $350,000 single-family homes on the 12-acre site, where others have wanted to build a shopping center. The site is located on Old Dominion Drive, at Springhill Road midway between the center of McLean and Great Falls. Nearby homes, many of which are considered estates, are valued at between $300,000 and $650,000. Zbigniew Brzezinski, national security adviser during the Carter administration, and Attorney General Edwin Meese III live nearby.
Property owners John F. Schebish, Stephen Horvath and Upar Inc., the site's used-car parts dealer, asked Fairfax County in December to change the residential, one-house per acre, land-use plan for the site to allow for commercial and town-house development.
Since that application was filed, a number of commercial developers have met with various McLean civic groups to talk about the proposed change. Hadid reportedly was also interested in the site as a potential commercial venture. Every neighborhood group opposed the change to commercial.
"We love that junkyard," has become a standard defense. One builder was almost laughed off the stage during a recent presentation at a community meeting at the McLean Citizens Association.
This week Hadid and the Georgelas Group "put in a contract that was accepted" by the owners of the land, which abuts a gas station.
Tom Georgelas, an architect and a principal in the Georgelas firm, Tuesday night surprised members of the Dranesville Task Force, a citizens advisory panel examining proposed land-use changes in northwest Fairfax, when he proposed to build homes on the land rather than a commercial project.
Georgelas, however, said he wants to build two houses per acre rather than one. That idea still did not please some task force members.
"We do not plan to build anything with a higher density than residential," Georgelas said. "We are proposing to build two homes per acre on the 'existing auto reclamation parts place.' "
Georgelas wants neighbors to back a denser residential use in exchange for getting rid of a yardful of old cars and providing adequate buffers between residential land and the gas station. The junkyard existed long before Fairfax County had a master land-use plan and is protected by grandfather clauses.
Steve Lopez, a Fairfax County planner, said he could not talk about the residential proposal during a meeting at Springhill School but said the staff would work with the developers before the plan goes to the county planning commission for action in April.
Jay Wright, president of the Springhill Civic Association, said the arguments for increased residential density were the same "flimsy arguments" that had been used to try to convince the community that the land was not usable for residential purposes.
"One gentleman in our crowd said, 'We have come to love that junkyard,' " Wright said.
Some members of the task force criticized the move by Georgelas and Hadid as a last-minute effort to do something with the site rather than leave it as it is now.
"We are not the same applicant. We bought it today. We came in at the 11th hour," Georgelas said.
Leeta Dial, a representative of Dranesville Supervisor Nancy Falck's office, told the citizens group the switch in developers is not really out of order. "If the piece of land has been submitted, then it does not matter who is the owner."
She reminded the group that applicants don't even have to own a piece of land to nominate it for change. "It is not unusual for the applicant to file one thing and the [county planning] staff and the planning commission to say that it won't work but perhaps there should be a middle ground. It is not technically out of order," she said.
Applications to change the land use can be amended throughout the long process of dealing with staff, planning commission and the board of supervisors.
Georgelas said Wednesday that he would be willing to consider possible cluster development of the land, which might not require a plan amendment change. Cluster development might be accomplished through a rezoning action, according to the county staff.
However, whatever plan is worked out would have to be economically feasible, Georgelas said. A major problem for any developer working on the site is a lack of sewer facilities. Developers will have to connect up to the nearest existing sewer line, which is approximately 3,000 feet from the site.
"To make it work, there needs to be some balance between one and two units per acre," Georgelas said.