North Hill is located east of Richmond Highway and north of Dart Drive. It is the former home of the Woodley-Nightingale trailer park.
The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously on Tuesday to approve an amendment to the comprehensive plan to allow apartments, townhouses and a public park to be built on the North Hill property.
North Hill, which is located on Richmond Highway north of Dart Drive, still needs to go through the rezoning process, and funding questions remain, especially for the park. However, no plan for the future of the largest undeveloped piece of land in the Richmond Highway corridor has gotten this far.
“This is a wonderful moment in a long saga in Mount Vernon District,” said Supervisor Dan Storck. “This is almost a 30-year process to get something that, truly, the community and area needed to have done, which is housing to replace the previous trailer park community that was there for so many years.”
The future of North Hill has been a contentious issue since the property was bought by the county in 1981 through a grant provided by the federal government that stipulated affordable housing be built on the land. North Hill was then home to the Woodley-Nightingale trailer park, which had fallen into disrepair. The old trailers were completely removed from the property in the 1980s, and in 1991 a new trailer community, the Woodley Hills Estates, was built on 13 acres at the southern end of the site.
What to do with the remainder of the property has since been the subject of much debate, and multiple proposals for the property never got off the ground.
After an unsolicited proposal for apartments and a park was made to the county in 2012, Fairfax issued a call for proposals for developments on the property. In 2015, a plan by CHPPENN I, LLC, was selected to develop North Hill into multifamily housing, town houses and a public park. After going through the planning process, the proposal now calls for 279 multifamily apartments, 196 townhouses, and a 12-acre public park. The apartments will be a mix of market and affordable units; it’s unclear at this point if any of the townhouses will be set aside for affordable units, Storck said.
“I think this plan amendment is better, far better than any alternative we have seen to date,” said Supervisor Jeff McKay (D-Lee).
While Tuesday’s vote was unanimous, some supervisors brought up issues they want addressed before the rezoning application for the property is approved. Supervisory Pat Herrity (R-Springfield), expressed concern about the additional strain the development will place on local schools, particularly on schools that already have a high percentage of students who qualify for free and reduced lunch.
“I will reluctantly support this. We need to take a hard look at the impact on schools,” Herrity said.
McKay said the project’s impact on traffic, specifically the intersection of Lockheed Boulevard and Richmond Highway, needs to be addressed. Saying that the intersection is already among the most dangerous in the county, McKay said that the safety of pedestrians must be a priority in the final design.
Cathy Ledec, speaking on behalf of the Pavilions at Huntington Metro Association, voiced support of the amendment, but noted that the new development must be held to high standards. Noting that she lived in a townhouse community lacking in green space, she said special considerations need to be made for environmental concerns, and also because the development will be the most prominent to date on Richmond Highway.
“The subsequent development project will be a highly visible project that will showcase the communities and Fairfax County’s strategic vision for what development and redevelopment should look like along the Richmond Highway corridor,” Ledec said. “It will set the standard, and should be a model for other developers to follow. The county, as property owner, should hold itself and its hired contractors to a higher standard.”
The next step for North Hill will be for the county’s planning commission to review and approve the rezoning request in January, after which the board of supervisors will approve or deny the rezoning request in February.