Fairfax County supervisors on June 8 voted 10-0 to grant a special exception allowing Madeira School to add a new science building, more faculty housing and improved equestrian facilities on its McLean campus.
The school now may build a new, three-story science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics (STEAM) building, which will be up to 45 feet tall and have 23,374 square feet of space, plus a 9,850-square-foot cellar. The building will have architectural features designed to prevent birds from crashing into its windows.
The new facility will replace an existing 8,800-square-foot science building in the same location. The current building, constructed in 1974, is past its useful life and was poorly designed and placed at the school, applicant’s attorney David Houston told the Fairfax County Planning Commission at an earlier hearing.
Madeira will tear down a single-family home dubbed The Laurels and an existing health center and in those locations build seven four-level, stacked townhouses – with a total of 14 units – for faculty and staff. The school will transfer the health center to an existing studio-arts building.
The new townhouses will be up to 45 feet tall, lack garages and be located 650 to 1,200 feet away from Madeira’s property lines. The units likely will not be visible from nearby properties.
Madeira currently is home to 23 single-family houses and five apartment units, and earlier obtained approval to build four more single-family units and five apartments. The newly approved housing units will provide an extra enticement for Madeira’s faculty, Houston said.
“One, it helps them recruit,” he told county supervisors. “But two, it makes for a better community environment and it makes the Madeira experience better.”
The supervisors’ approval also will allow the school to upgrade its equestrian facilities. Madeira will tear down its 11,702-square-foot stables and build in the same location a 20,000-square-foot, up-to-50-foot-tall stable and a 58,000-square-foot indoor riding arena up to 40 feet tall.
In addition, the school will build an 80-foot-diameter, up-to-40-foot tall “hot walker” for exercising horses and regrade a nearby riding paddock to fix drainage and erosion problems. The school also will construct a retaining wall from 2 to 20 feet tall around the newly enlarged riding facilities.
Madeira also will replace a two-story house called The Farmhouse with another two-story, single-family detached residence of up to 5,000 square feet. The new house will be up to 30 feet tall and sited about 150 feet the school’s entrance, thus visible from Georgetown Pike.
Madeira’s plans also call for construction of underground stormwater-detention facilities next to the STEAM building’s expanded courtyard and under the loop road next to the equestrian facilities.
The new approval will keep overall development within the school’s approved 2002 long-range master plan, which permits up to 523,618 square feet of gross floor area, 37 residential units for faculty and staff and seven accessory-dwelling units. Under the newly approved plan, Madeira will have 518,255 square feet of gross floor area, with up to 45 residential units and up to 12 accessory-dwelling units.
The supervisors’ public hearing featured no public testimony, unlike the Planning Commission’s May 19 hearing, which featured lively comments from supporters of the application and those who thought the plans were too intensive and sought to preserve The Laurels. Planning Commission members on May 26 unanimously supported the application, which also had received a favorable resolution from the McLean Citizens Association.
The all-girls private school, founded in Washington, D.C., in 1906 by Lucy Madeira, moved in 1931 to its current nearly 376.2-acre campus at 8328 Georgetown Pike in McLean. The school is allowed a maximum of 338 students and 105 faculty and staff.
Supervisor John Foust (D-Dranesville), who moved for the application’s approval, praised Madeira’s plans and said it was “awesome” that the school could provide housing for some of its staff, given the area’s high housing costs and lengthy commutes.
“You visit the Madeira campus and you think that this is idyllic, it can’t be improved,” Foust said. “But they are making an investment. I think it’s really going to make a difference, particularly for science education for the women who attend the school.”