Public hearing Thursday for new Bock Farm townhouse plan

Staff report images

Developer sketches of the proposed townhouse development. Click to enlarge.

The Fairfax County Planning Commission will hold a public hearing Thursday on a new proposal for Bock Farm, an 11-acre property located just south of Inova Mount Vernon Hospital.

The commission will go over a rezoning request that would allow for a 35-townhouse development to be built on a 4.38 portion of the property bordering Hinson Farm Road. The remaining portion of the property is slated to eventually be used for three single-family detached homes, which will not require a rezoning request.

Bock Farm, which is also known as Justice Snowden Farm, is currently home to an equestrian facility that has been owned and maintained by Bill and Valerie Bock since 1998. The couple, who are in their 70s, have said previously that the physical demands of running the facility were too much for them to continue to maintain. Bill Bock said they eventually plan to find new homes for many of the 21 horses at the farm, while taking the rest with them to a new home out of the area.

A staff report by the county’s planning and zoning staff recommends approval of the townhouse proposal; if the planning commission votes to approve the rezoning request, the proposal will then go before the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors for a final vote on Sept. 26.

Thursday’s public hearing will be held during the commission’s regular meeting, which starts at 8:15 p.m. in the Board Auditorium of the Fairfax County Government Center, located 12000 Government Center Parkway (see map). The meeting can be viewed live on Fairfax County Government’s Cable Television Channel 16.

Second attempt

The new rezoning request comes months after a previous proposal for the property was shelved after a sometimes acrimonious debate between supporters and opponents. The original plan called for a four-story independent living facility for seniors to be built on the property. The independent living facility, a 134-unit development that would have been zoned at a higher density than the current townhouse proposal, was approved by the planning commission and Mount Vernon Council of Citizens Associations, but ran into opposition from residents in the neighborhood adjacent to Bock Farm.

Residents opposed to the project, who used a website and social media presence to publicize their concerns, primarily objected to the height of the new building and the density, which many feared would bring increased traffic. 

The property is also subject to a restrictive covenant agreement from the early 1970s that limits future uses of the property. Five covenant holders, including the current property owner and the Williamsburg Manor North Citizens Association (WMNCA), are required to sign off an any change. The WMNCA had voted against releasing the covenant on the property proposed for the independent living facility.

Mount Vernon Supervisor Dan Storck twice delayed final votes on the independent living proposal while trying to mediate the issue between opponents, the Bock family and the developer. Ultimately, an alternative plan for a townhouse development proved to be the most popular course of action, forcing the independent living proposal to be scuttled and a new rezoning application process to be launched.

The new proposal

The proposed development would be built on the northwest corner of the property, bordering Hinson Farm Road and the existing medical office complex to the west. Access to the townhouses would only be from Hinson Farm Road, and a new sidewalk would be built along Hinson Farm Road in front of the development.

The 34 townhouses are slated to be three stories and feature a two-car garage and two car-driveway. The buildings will be 35 feet tall and will be situated along three new private streets in the development.

map outline of Bock Farm

The portion of Bock Farm where the townhouse development is proposed. (Fairfax County image)

The townhouse development is predicted to add 16 students to the public schools (West Potomac, Sandburg and Hollin Meadows), according to a Fairfax County Public Schools analysis.

The townhouse proposal already has the approval of the Mount Vernon Council of Citizens Associations and the WMNCA. Additionally, the restrictive covenant on the property has been amended to allow the 4.38 acre portion of the property to be rezoned, according to John Harris, president of the WMNCA. 

Bill Bock believes that if the new proposal is approved by the planning commission and board of supervisors, construction on the new development could begin in summer 2018.