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Virginia’s Fox Mill Estates keeps them coming back

Fox Mill Estates has residents who grew up there as children and returned to raise their own kids. (Photos by Craig Hudson for The Washington Post/For the Washington Post)
5 min

At Fox Mill Estates in Fairfax County, Va., many former residents returned home.

This is true for Irelynn Legler, who grew up in Fox Mill and returned with her husband in 2003 to the same street where her parents still live. Legler’s sister, who once told her, “Of course I’m moving back to Fox Mill, why wouldn’t I?” lives a few blocks over with her husband and three children, Legler said.

The community environment she experienced as a child — especially during the summers with neighborhood friends at Fox Mill’s private pools — is one she wanted for her own children, Legler said.

Getting back didn’t come easily. It wasn’t until she placed letters in mailboxes throughout the community, saying she wanted to move back if anyone was looking to sell, that her goal of buying a home in Fox Mill finally became a reality, she said.

Legler and her husband grew to a family of five and are one of many who have updated or added on to their house, one of 1,120 single-family Colonial, traditional and contemporary houses built between 1972 and 1985.

Fox Mill has been “one of the few places in the area where you can get a single-family home on either a single income or two lower incomes,” she said, accommodating stay-at-home parents and employees at the neighborhood school, such as herself. Fox Mill Elementary sits at the heart of the community, allowing families and teachers to connect while walking to and from school.

“It does add a lot to the community when you have a local school,” said Josh Anderson, who returned to Fox Mill five years ago. It’s not just the teachers, including his wife, who make a difference; it’s also the numerous parent volunteers who “give a few hours a week just to make it a better place,” Anderson said.

Similar to Legler, Anderson grew up in Fox Mill and returned for family reasons: His parents still live in the neighborhood, and two of his sisters work at Fox Mill Elementary (the same school they attended). It’s where he wanted to raise his own children.

“It was one of the only communities I knew of in this area that still had a common land and a creek and a sledding hill and lots of nature that the kids could explore,” Anderson said. “It was a community where you could let your kids roam free and feel safe about it.”

There are 57 acres of common land in Fox Mill, some designated as Audubon Wildlife Sanctuaries with features such as bat boxes. This common area includes tot lots, gazebos, a small pond and the creek, which Fox Mill’s Cub Scout Pack 159 helps maintain.

The community is a mix of families and older folks, including original owners such as Barbara Mehm and her husband, who found their dream home in 1976, then priced around $55,000.

As registrar at Fox Mill Elementary for more than 20 years, Mehm met new residents and got to know numerous Fox Mill families, she said. Over time, she started to register the children of those her son grew up with who had returned.

“It’s very sweet,” Mehm said. “I feel like it really speaks well that they want the same experience for their children that they had,” even down to playing around the creek.

Now retired, Mehm continues to meet new residents as chair of the neighborhood’s Welcome Committee. “I bring a small amount of baked goods, usually brownies, and knock on the door with the hope that I can make a connection.”

Her group of community friends, including other original owners, has hosted an annual cookie exchange for more than 40 years. “We still have the five dozen cookies and the potluck dinner, and it’s just a lovely tradition,” which includes some of the newer residents, so they can keep it going “hopefully for 40 more years,” Mehm said.

Fox Mill’s strong sense of friendship and connection has prompted people to take care of one another, no matter the age, said Trish Atkins, a resident since 2010 and secretary of the Fox Mill Estates Homes Association.

Atkins experienced this firsthand when her family had the coronavirus in 2020. “I really did not have to cook any meals during that time,” she said. “Someone either dropped groceries on my doorstep or brought over an extra serving for my family that night, and I wasn’t asking anybody to do this. It just happened.”

Bonds are further built through the neighborhood’s long list of social events, funded by the annual $200 association fee. Last October, the association’s 50th anniversary united original owners and younger families in celebration of the old and new.

“It really is a fantastic neighborhood,” Atkins said, “one that, at least in my experience in Northern Virginia, has been a real gem.”

Living there: Fox Mill Estates is bordered by Fox Mill Road to the north; Fox Mill Shopping Center, Reston Parkway, and Lawyers Road to the east; Franklin Oaks Park to the south; and Fairfax County Parkway to the west.

According to Bud Boulineaux, a real estate agent with Pearson Smith Realty, there is one home on the market in Fox Mill Estates: a five-bedroom, 2½-bathroom for $769,000. Over the past 12 months, 36 houses have sold. The highest-priced was a five-bedroom, 5½-bathroom for $1,050,000, and the lowest-priced was a three-bedroom, two-bathroom for $590,000. The average sales price over the past 12 months was $719,912.

Schools: Fox Mill Elementary, Rachel Carson Middle, South Lakes High.

Transit: Fox Mill Estates has quick access to the Dulles Toll Road and Interstate 66. Fairfax Connector’s Route 553 bus has multiple stops in the neighborhood. The Herndon Metro station on the Silver Line is about two miles away. Dulles International Airport is about five miles away.