Fairfax County officials and a developer/operator of housing for the elderly are scrambling to solve road problems that threaten to derail construction of a nursing home and apartment building in Burke.
Residents of nearby heavily populated Burke Lake neighborhoods support the project, in dramatic contrast to what has become standard neighborhood opposition to elderly-housing proposals in Fairfax.
Fralin and Waldron, a Roanoke-based company that operates 7,000 apartment units and 13 nursing homes for senior citizens, so far has balked at requests by the county planning staff that it pay for making Burke Lake Road a four-lane highway in front of the project.
Fralin and Waldron wants to build a three-story, 111-unit apartment building for people over age 62 on land across Burke Lake Road from Burke elementary school. A 120-bed nursing home would be built behind the apartment building, according to county staff reports.
Frank McDermott, attorney for the developer, said this week he hopes the county and his client can resolve the transportation problem before scheduled action by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Monday.
Fralin and Waldron has asked the county to grant the company special exceptions to allow the projects on adjacent sites totaling more than 16 acres of residentially zoned land. Such projects are allowed in residential neighborhoods in Fairfax if special exceptions are granted.
The planning staff has recommended approval of the project if the developer will make major improvements to Burke Lake Road. However, McDermott said that "traffic problems in the Burke area were there before this project was proposed. The need for those improvements is not being generated by this project." The developer is willing to make a contribution toward the cost of the improvements but does not want to bear the entire burden, McDermott said.
The county planning commission recently deferred a vote on the proposal to give the developer and its staff time to resolve the issue before it goes to the board of supervisors.
Bruce Brown, a trustee of the Burke Lake Conservancy, which represents 5,000 homeowners, said his group supports the project but wants the county to focus attention on traffic problems and make sure open spaces promised by Fralin and Waldron are included in any final package.
Richard Bowers, speaking for the Burke Ridge Property Association and 1,400 members of other nearby homeowner groups, told the planning commission his neighbors want the facilities for the elderly in their community.
"We support this type of development. It is needed in this community," he said.
But Bowers said the area is plagued with "gridlock traffic problems." He said none of the individual projects in the booming Burke area is "alone responsible for the road improvements that are needed in the Burke Lake area. We are all a part of it."
"We are sensitive about our intersections," said Springfield Planning Commission member Peter Murphy, within whose district the proposed project for the elderly lies.
Murphy said he was "pleased to see the people in my area supporting the project." Opposition from nearby residents has killed many proposed projects for the elderly before they were considered by the county planning staff, he said.
Members of the planning commission said they were worried about two small lots adjacent to the site along Burke Center Parkway that are not included in the proposal. McDermott said his client is continuing to try to buy them.