A proposed over-age-60 independent-living development in McLean earned the support of all but one Fairfax County Planning Commission member on March 17 and now will head to the Board of Supervisors for final disposition.
Tri-State Chain Bridge LLC is seeking to build Chain Bridge Estates, featuring 35 for-sale independent-living units, including townhouses and “2-over-2” multi-family units, on 3.23 acres at 1632 and 1648 Chain Bridge Road near downtown McLean.
The units would operate as a condominium association and would be managed by a third party with experience managing such arrangements, said John Ulfelder, the Dranesville District representative to the Planning Commission.
The development would have a 3,600-square-foot clubhouse providing indoor services and amenities to residents, he said.
Because the proposal would be designed and built for independent senior living, it qualifies under county code for a four-times multiplier in the number of possible units. The county makes that allowance to serve as an “incentive to developers to develop this much-needed type of housing in Fairfax County,” Ulfelder said.
Fifty-five percent of the site would remain open space. The property currently has two unoccupied single-family detached houses built in the 1950s, which would be removed to make way for the project.
The developer would provide 90 parking spaces, which is “significantly in excess of what is required under the zoning ordinance,” Ulfelder said. “As a result, there is more than ample parking on-site to accommodate residents, guests and staff, with no impact on the surrounding neighborhoods.”
The property currently has no stormwater-management facilities, but the applicant would install one that would exceed county and state requirements and benefit surrounding parcels as well, he said.
Ulfelder addressed multiple concerns brought up by area residents at the commission’s public hearing on the proposal. The buildings’ proposed heights of 36 to 40 feet would exceed the usual 35-foot maximum allowed in that residential zone, but would help the units fit in better with nearby neighborhoods, Ulfelder said. The units would be built on low-lying land, so their heights would be comparable to those of neighboring houses, he said.
While some residents had complained about traffic levels and congestion in the vicinity and sought a traffic signal at Davidson and Chain Bridge roads near the site’s entrance, a traffic study – confirmed by the Virginia Department of Transportation – found a traffic light there was not warranted now and might not be for another 10 years, Ulfelder said.
Chain Bridge Estates would generate only about 85 daily vehicle trips, fewer than would be produced by a by-right development, and both the morning and evening peak traffic hours would produce fewer than 10 trips each, Ulfelder said. Nonetheless, the applicant has agreed to set aside space near the development’s entrance for installation of a future traffic signal, if one is warranted, he said.
In response to concerns from a neighbor living on nearby Audmar Drive, the developer has flipped the location of the clubhouse’s patio to the other side of the building and surround it with a fence. The applicant also has agreed to limit the patio’s hours of usage and not allow outdoor music and happy or cocktail hours there.
“I believe these changes adequately address the neighbor’s concerns about the possible impact of the patio on her peaceful and quiet enjoyment of her property,” Ulfelder said.
Five of the residences would be sold as affordable units. Planning Commission member Mary Cortina (Braddock District), who cast the sole nay vote, said the application was not a true “affordable-housing” development and therefore should not qualify at the high end of the county’s density formula for additional units.
The site is too small for the number of units proposed, does not provide tree-preservation measures and lacks adequate buffering for the surrounding neighborhoods, Cortina said. The development also should have to meet setback and screening standards, she said.
“The development does not harmoniously join the neighborhood,” Cortina said. “It’s not neighborly to remove all the trees and max out [density at] the site, even if it is beautifully designed and serves a priority segment” of the population.
The Board of Supervisors is slated to hold a May 4 public hearing on the proposal.