8800 Richmond Highway townhouse proposal put on hold

Fenced area with trailer and gate

The entrance to the 8800 Richmond Highway property.

An application to build a new townhouse development on the 8800 Richmond Highway property has been put on hold indefinitely by the developer, forcing cancellation of a Wednesday evening public hearing on the matter.

The rezoning application has not been withdrawn, but more time is needed to reassess potential options for the site, said Mark Viani, a representative for developer Stanley Martin Homes.

“There’s got to be some retooling and [Stanley Martin will be] looking at other options,” Viani said. “They’re just looking at redesigns.”

Viani cited a recent addendum to a county staff report, which was released in early October, as a key factor that played into the decision to rethink the project. Viani, who also serves as president of the Southeast Fairfax Development Corporation (SFDC), said the addendum gives the builder more options to consider in regards to what can potentially be built at the site.

The decision to put the townhouse rezoning application on hold is the latest turn in the battle over the future of the eight-acre 8800 Richmond Highway property. The proposal to build 43 luxury townhomes at the site, which sits south of the Sacramento Center and north of Dogue Creek on the west side of Route 1, has a number of outspoken supporters and defenders. The leaders of neighboring community organizations — including the Mount Vernon Council of Citizens Associations umbrella group — are pushing for the proposal to be approved. Supporters say the townhouse project will cleanup a neglected site while bringing needed high-end development to the southern end of the Richmond Highway corridor.

On the other side, local environmental groups and smart growth advocates say its irresponsible to build in Dogue Creek’s 100-year floodplain and the surrounding resource protected area. They’ve also argued that the project goes against Embark Richmond Highway’s guidelines for restoring environmentally sensitive areas.

The Audubon Naturalist Society was quick to respond to news of the application’s hold on Tuesday, calling the decision “a victory for Dogue Creek” in a press release.

“Regardless of what the reason for indefinitely postponing the plan amendment, we know that the proposed plan was a terrible, awful, horrible idea,” said Monica Billger, the ANS’s Advocacy Manager. “A floodplain is a floodplain, and this site is CLEARLY a bad place to develop.”

But perhaps the most important opposition to redeveloping 8800 Richmond Highway comes from the county itself. Fairfax County planning staff oppose building in the 100-year floodplain, as well as in environmentally protected areas around Dogue Creek, and recommended in both the staff report and the addendum to keep the property zoned as it currently is.

Pete Sitnik, whose family has owned the 8800 property for decades, said he learned Monday of the developer’s decision to put the application on hold. Sitnik, who has been trying to sell the property for years and feels the Stanley Martin plan is by far the best proposal he’s seen, said he’s frustrated but still optimistic that some kind of agreement can be reached between the county and the developer.

“I’m disappointed, but I have not lost hope yet,” Sitnik said.

Sitnik has been trying to sell 8800 to the townhouse developer for almost five years, and said that if the current proposal falls through, he’ll still look be looking to sell the property to a developer because he has no other options.

“[8800] is still going to get developed,” Sitnik said, noting that the county had no interest in purchasing the property for use as parkland, something that some opponents to the townhouse project are hoping for. “There’s no option between [a developer buying or the county buying] that I know of.”

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  1. Jim poole