The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors on May 4 unanimously approved a special exception to allow Tri-State Chain Bridge LLC to build Chain Bridge Estates, a 35-unit independent-living facility just west of downtown McLean.
The 3.26 acre property is located on Chain Bridge Road about one-quarter of a mile west of the McLean Community Business Center (CBC) and across from Davidson Road.
The site consists of two parcels, both with unoccupied single-family homes built in the 1950s. It is located within easy walking distance of medical offices and retail businesses and has ready access to a bus route that connects with a Metro station, said Greg Riegle, the applicant’s attorney.
Tri-State Chain Bridge LLC will market the units to people ages 60 and older. The pandemic has affected that housing market more than others, but that segment of the aging population still is looking for less-institutional alternatives that offer individualized services, Riegle said.
“This project squarely addresses that need,” he said. “For many persons, a home-based, age-in-place option is superior to the more institutional, multi-family style choices that have historically dominated the marketplace.”
Some of the dwellings will be single-family attached units, while others will be “two-over-two.” Five of the dwellings, or 15 percent of the development, will be affordable units.
The architectural styles of the development’s units are more in keeping with the surrounding neighborhood than a multi-family building and will not appear to be a commercial use, county planning staff said. The buildings’ heights also are in line with surrounding residential developments, Riegle said.
Fairfax County’s zoning ordinance provides a density bonus for independent-living facilities, which in the case will allow 10.7 dwelling units per acre.
An on-site management will provide residents with a “turnkey, no-maintenance” style of living, with day-to-day living assistance, entertainment and fitness programs, Riegle said. Residents will have access to round-the-clock health-care services, such as preventive care, physical therapy and post-surgical care, he said.
The site also will have a clubhouse/amenity building that provides activities for senior residents and there will be on-site areas for active and passive recreation as well. Handicapped-accessible walkways with seating will connect with trails in the surrounding area.
Fifty-five percent of the site will remain open space and there will be landscaped areas along the periphery, county staff said. The applicant will provide a total of 90 parking spaces, using private garages and surface parking.
While the site now has no stormwater controls, the applicant will build an underground stormwater-management facility.
Compared with a nine-house subdivision plan that had been approved earlier for the site, the applicant’s proposal provides “substantial” improvements in tree preservation and open space and will have no impact on the local school population, Riegle said.
Not everyone was enamored of the proposal. Bobbi Bowman, who has lived in a house adjacent to the site for 22 years, said the application failed to meet county standards on neighborhood compatibility.
“A busy clubhouse and outdoor-dining area are not compatible with my property and those of my neighbors, because they are, in effect, a community center and restaurant,” she said.
Bowman favored additional noise-attenuation measures and urged supervisors not to allow the development’s residents to have parties, happy hours or music on the patio. She also wanted a noise-reduction fence to be erected around the patio.
In response to community feedback, the applicant reoriented the clubhouse and its outdoor patio area away from neighboring residents, Riegle said. The applicant also restricted the patio’s usage hours and prohibited outdoor music, he said.
McLean resident Eric West said the development would provide a good housing option for residents making the transition between middle age and their senior years. The application is an “excellent idea” that will fit well into the community and provide ample trees to shield neighbors, he said.
Winnie Pizzano, president of the nearby Stoneleigh Homeowners Association, said the community favored the development.
“We believe this is a positive addition to our neighborhood and it is well-positioned at the entrance to the McLean CBC for walking and transit,” she said.
Commercial entities will not be allowed into the development’s clubhouse and its amenities will be for residents only, Pizzano said.
Scott Shawkey, a 25-year McLean resident, said the development’s location is within easy walking distance of many community amenities and provides a sizable green buffer for neighbors.
“This is something special,” Shawkey said.
Ann Seaman, a 42-year McLean resident, said she valued having an additional option for being able to stay in the community for the remainder of her life. She disputed the notion that the development’s 60-and-older crowd would make much of a racket at night.
“I have not been to a party lately where it’s been a noisy group, because we have to be quiet so we can hear each other,” she said.
Supervisor John Foust (D-Dranesville) thanked all participants in the development process for their positivity.
“I’m so pleased with the way this has come together,” he said.