Landmark Mews doesn't look like the kind of neighborhood where revolutions are born.

Nestled near the West End of Alexandria, in the "Condo Canyon" of high-rises along Shirley Highway, Landmark Mews resembles a misplaced piece of Old Town: Colonial-style town houses, surrounded by lush landscaping and an imposing brick wall, lend an air of cloistered affluence. Wayne Dunlap, president of the Landmark Mews Homeowners Association, calls it "a city within a city."

But underneath that exterior, Landmark Mews has been experiencing an identity crisis. Although the neighborhood's main entrance opens onto an Alexandria street and the Alexandria Fire Department responds to emergency calls, Landmark Mews is actually in Fairfax County.

And that's something that residents thought they wanted to change, at least for awhile.

"It first cropped up about six or seven months ago when somebody got perturbed about his tax rate," Dunlap said. . "And we had had some trouble dealing with Fairfax County" about parking problems and getting school buses into the development.

"You can cross the street from us and you're in Alexandria. So somebody thought we should investigate whether or not we might want to be part of Alexandria. We didn't have anything to lose, so we did."

For several months, Dunlap and his neighbors quietly explored how they could be annexed into Alexandria, a move they now say they are unlikely to attempt. For more than a decade, annexation efforts across Virginia have stirred controversy and almost none has succeeded. In 1971, Fairfax County defeated Alexandria's bid to annex some of the county's land that abuts the city.

But Dunlap said that the willingness of Landmark Mews residents to consider such a step is typical of the community.

"We are homeowners with some degree of professional competence," Dunlap said. "We're not firebrands, but we are better organized than some communities and we're not afraid to take a hard-nosed business approach.

"We have the resources and we've done our homework. We've also tried to maintain a low profile," he said. "But we're results-oriented, and we're not afraid to do what we need to do to get results."

One reason Landmark Mews residents might have found it comparatively easy to break with Fairfax County is that there are no long-term political ties between them and local government. Six years ago, Landmark Mews did not exist.

And, Dunlap said, "the people in Fairfax seem to have been responsive to our complaints. Frankly, we're getting pretty good service. And after we examined it, there doesn't appear to be a compelling reason to move from one place to another."

In 1981, when developer Scott M. Herrick of Long Island took over work on Landmark Mews, one home had been completed. "I sort of inherited the project," Herrick recalled. "My accountant started it. When I asked him how it was going, he asked me to come down and look it over.

"It looked like one of those projects that was destined to go under. I came down here without a change of clothes, but I got coerced into staying and changing my life. I never did go back to get my clothes. They're still in New York."

Herrick, who had been in the development business with his brother, started from scratch, using subcontractors to build the town house units and marketing them himself. Today, his Landmark Communities group is building town houses and single-family homes in eight developments across Fairfax County, has 150 people on its payroll and is about to complete the 148-unit Landmark Mews project.

Landmark Mews is characterized by its low-rise, traditional architecture, which contrasts markedly with the 15-story towers around it. "Being naive to the area, I didn't see anything unusual about it at the time," Herrick said. "Now, I would say, yeah, there is. We had to create an ambiance. But the location convinced me the project would be a winner."

Landmark Mews is just off Shirley Highway, near the Duke Street interchange. Its proximity to the Pentagon attracted a number of military officers, including several generals and admirals, as early buyers. Today, Herrick and Dunlap say, residents include a large number of couples whose children have grown and moved away and a few couples with children.

A total of 130 of the units in the 15-acre project have been completed. Each owner holds the title to his or her unit and adjacent yard, but the homeowners association controls the project's common area, maintains the private streets and arranges garbage collection.

All of the town houses have four-level floor plans that include two to five bedrooms. In recent years, Herrick has added luxury touches to the newer units.

"The first units had galley kitchens, but that has been changed to gourmet kitchens," said Bernadette R. Manara, Landmark Communities director of marketing. "Elevators are available. We've revised the master suites. And we've hit all the hot buttons: whirlpool tubs, things like that." Each unit also includes a garage, hardwood floors and a fireplace.

Dunlap said he and his neighbors have been pleased with both their homes' construction and appreciating prices. Herrick said that early units sold in Landmark Mews went for about $150,000. Today, top-of-the-line models are being sold for more than $400,000.

"One of the nice things about {Landmark Mews} is that we have the power to get things done. If there's a problem we can get the homeowners association together and fix it. I really enjoy our community, and I wouldn't want to live anywhere else," Dunlap said.