Community Opposed to Penn Daw Development

Community rejects mixed-use development ideas for Penn Daw Plaza project as presented.

Opinions clashed Monday as residents packed into the cafeteria at for a public meeting about the proposed development of the Penn Daw Community Business Center (CBC).

Members of the Penn Daw Task Force, which is only an advisory body and consists of local residents and a Southeast Fairfax Development Corporation representative, answered questions regarding a drafted amendment to Fairfax County’s Comprehensive Plan for the rezoning and redevelopment of the area west of South Kings and Richmond Highways, and south of Poag and School Streets. 

It is the task force's job to review the amendment and make sure that the plans proposed are acceptable to the community. 

Throughout the meeting, residents stressed that they wanted more upscale, quality retail space in the area, unlike the Walmart that opened across the highway in 2010. Some mentioned the idea of a Trader Joe’s. 

But getting a grocery store, be it Trader Joe’s or the Shoppers that once anchored the plaza, will be difficult with Walmart so close by, according to a study by Alvarez and Marsal Real Estate Advisory Services.

The study states that without an anchor store, Penn Daw Plaza is “an asset with no reason for being.”

Many also complained about the primarily residential component of the envisioned mixed-use development. Per the property owner's proposal, the area – which consists of three sites – would hold 735 residential units and 70,000 square feet of retail space.

Angered community members worried that 735 new homes would add roughly 1,000 new vehicles to an already dire traffic situation in the area.

But other residents were more supportive of the proposal and urged their peers to reconsider.

“We’re all subject to the traffic in this area,” said one resident in favor of the amendment. “It’s just part of living in this area … If we keep scaring away the developer, what is the alternative that is going to be in that shopping center?”

Local resident and realtor Eva Damelin agreed, noting that many people at the meeting were too resistant to change.

“Route 1 is an eyesore, and like it or not, it is going to get developed,” she said. “This is the beginning of what people see when they look at Route 1. So it is important that [development] starts over here and spreads up Route 1 so it’s an attractive new commercial and residential area.”

Another resident disagreed, saying he was for change. "We're not opposed to development," he said. "But we're absolutely opposed to this."

The task force was evenly split on language to present to the Lee District Land Use Committee, but the county wanted to get the process moving. A presentation of the findings will be made during a meeting of the Lee District Land Use Committee on Monday, March 5, 2012, but it will not reflect a unified view of the task force.

If the committee favors the language and it makes it through a subsequent Planning Commission hearing, it will be presented before the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. If it becomes part of the language in the Comprehensive Plan, then rezoning applications can be submitted.

Lee District Supervisor Jeff McKay couldn't attend the meeting because of a Fairfax County Board of Supervisors retreat, but spoke with Patch Tuesday afternoon, and said the process had already taken more than a year and would only take longer.

“Every property in Lee District has an existing zoning category that it’s in, and existing plan language text," he said. "Somebody can come in within that existing zoning, by right, and build something without any public input.”

That’s what happened with Walmart, he said, and he wants to prevent that from happening again.

“The task force has been voting now for a year and a half. It’s time to vote this up or down at the Land Use Committee. I don’t want this opportunity to go away because the county process killed it.”


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Phil February 10, 2012 at 04:24 AM
It's simple: 735 residential units in that small an area = disaster. To paraphrase the one person quoted in the story, I'm not opposed to development, but I'm 100 percent opposed to this.
Kenneth Brown February 10, 2012 at 06:41 AM
William, It is a bit disingenuous at best to quantify the meeting as "Opinions clashed Monday " at the meeting. Although they did clash, with a few hundred people there, sentiment was very strongly in one court. Because a handful of people there supporting the Developers Plan spoke, it is hardly fair to report that there wasn't a large consensus against the plan. At different times, many issues were raised, and there wasn't always a consensus, but uniformly across all conversations, there was an OVERWHELMING majority that was against the developers spoon fed plan to the county. The same plan that they proposed a year ago, where they found almost total opposition from the community. And yet, somehow, this plan found it's way forward endorsed by Jeff McKay. Makes you kind of wonder, huh? Well, that is a different topic, so I will just close by saying this: As a young reporter, please keep in mind that not only quotes are important. Context and the relevant backing information is always critical. As far as I can tell, nothing you said is factually wrong, however the simple context or spin of it is incredibly wrong as you didn't report on the overall sentiment of the community that was very clearly expressed at the meeting. The bottom line was, the community totally rejected the plan overwhelmingly, and that should have been the headline, or at worst should have been included in the article. Thanks, Kenneth Brown
William Callahan February 10, 2012 at 01:23 PM
Kenneth, Thank you for your comment. I can see your point, and have adjusted the headline to reflect that. Best, William
Jeffrey Pandin February 11, 2012 at 05:33 PM
It's fine to say you want office space, but theres already a glut of empty office space on Rt 1. I'm pretty sure the Metrocall buildings are mostly empty. Who is going to build office space they can't rent? Instead of just saying "no high-density residential"...let's try to think of some transportation solutions that will make it work. If we get enough high-end residential, Trader Joes will follow...but not before.
Wildermann February 12, 2012 at 09:10 PM
This is deja vu to the development proposals of JPI across the street at Kings Xing with the Spring Bank community. JPI wanted primarily residential development with a ratio 95% residential with 5% retail/commercial. JPI argued for months against a ratio closer to the comp plan language of 60% residential 40% retail/commercial. Spring Bank voted not to oppose a plan by JPI that called for 67.5% residential with 32.5% retail/commercial. JPI also sought additional property (Penn Daw Mobile Home Park) to increase residential town house units within the project proposal. They had also sought a carrot from the County to offset the cost of structured parking necessary for a project of this scale. The idea of Tax Increment Financing or TIF was brought up and Spring Bank supported JPI's request for the incentive. It was Fairfax County that said no to the TIF repeatedly. TIF has been used in other areas of the county but no TIF for US 1. JPI ran up against a brick wall on the issue and the owner of the Penn Daw Mobile Home Park wanted a huge sum of money for his property & Fairfax County wanted JPI to fund the relocation of the mobile home people. Things went south after that with the property being sold to JBGR that brought the Walmart. Many have accused Spring Bank for Walmart. Spring Bank like citizens here sought a community serving mixed use project. Fairfax County in my view is at fault for the Walmart. Good luck to Lee District citizens in your quest.


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