An attempt to redevelop a 338-acre residential neighborhood across from Fair Oaks Mall has bitterly divided the surrounding community.
Residents of Fairfax Farms who have supported selling out and allowing high-density residential development in their neighborhood last week asked Fairfax County officials to permit them to withdraw their application to change the county's comprehensive land-use plan for their area.
Planning Commission member Rosemarie Annunziata told a Planning Commission public hearing that she would not allow the withdrawal before scheduled public hearings on the proposal were held.
Proponents and opponents of the possible redevelopment asked for the withdrawal during public hearings focusing on a half-dozen possible land-use changes in the Fair Oaks Mall area of the west central portion of Fairfax.
Gretchen Davis, a resident of Fairfax Farms, said she hopes to continue to live there. "It is a unique place to live. We're buffered from the commercial development and an environmental quality corridor [that needs protection] runs right through the middle of Fairfax Farms," Davis said.
"This land has been involved in a land-pooling issue, an issue that Fairfax needs to come to grips with," Davis said. "It has polarized our community."
Many of those who originally asked the county to let their neighborhood be developed for commercial or high-density residential purposes now support withdrawing that request, at least for the time being.
Several supporters said they wanted to continue to talk with county officials about the long-range fate of the area. They predicted that residents who want to stay today may not want to stay as more of the planned development for the area occurs.
One unidentified man said he already feels like he is sitting "in Times Square in his pajamas" in what was once a rural community. All residents agreed that traffic is a major problem facing the community. Several said bringing additional development would not solve that problem.
Sitting at the junction of I-66 and Rte. 50, Fairfax Farms is accessible at only one point, a narrow road across from the busy Fair Oaks Mall.
For several years, resident Shirley Swiney, without results, has worked with state and local officials to try to improve access to the neighborhood and traffic safety along Rte. 50. Swiney, a major supporter of the original proposal to redevelop, now supports withdrawing or deferring action until developments already approved are in place.
"We do not know what is going to happen. We want to work with our neighbors five years down the road," she said.
The planning staff is backing changes in the land-use plan that would make future plan alterations more difficult. The staff wants to strengthen language that would protect the stability of Fairfax Farms as a neighborhood of detached homes.
The commissioners also heard from residents of the Cedar Lakes/Hanger Road community, off West Ox Road, adjacent to the Hazel-Peterson Cos.' giant Fair Lakes mixed-use development.
Cedar Lakes Estates, a residential neighborhood, is under contract to sell its property to NVLand, a McLean development firm, and wants its land transformed into a mixed-use development.
David Reid, chairman of the Cedar Lakes homeowners group, said his neighbors "never dreamed of the high-density development" that is coming close to their homes.
"We tried to fight the developers," Reid said. "A year ago we banded together to sell, and 100 percent of our community endorsed the contract."
Reid said allowing a mix of residential and commercial development in the Cedar Lakes area would allow residents "to make a clean break, leaving behind our swimming pools and stables," because the price tag for the land will be higher if a mixed-use project can be built than if use of the land is restricted to residential development.