|SE 2003-DR-022 Chesterbrook
John Mark Zetts
6640 Kirby Court
Falls Church VA 22054
February 5, 2004
Chairman Murphy and Members of the Planning Commission,
My name is Mark Zetts and I represent the Kirby Court Homeowner’s
Association. Our block of Westmoreland Street is replete with institutions
and Kirby Court is sandwiched in between. There are Haycock and
Longfellow Schools, both of which are bursting at the seams with
students, a Presbyterian church with a 220 seat sanctuary and two
congregations and a Temple with a 360-seat sanctuary. Although they
were built in the 50s and 60s, there has been a significant expansion
in recent years with a large addition to the Temple, classroom trailers
at Haycock School and a very large modular classroom building at
The Temple Rodef Shalom is a 61,000 sf building that is well over
40 feet tall at the rear which faces Haycock-Longfellow Park. This
edifice towers over the homes on the South side of Kirby Court.
The present Special Exception application proposes to build an even
larger building that is also three stories and 40 feet tall in the
back. We conducted a balloon test in mid-January and the neighbors
present all felt the height of the building, combined with the 175
foot mass, was unacceptable. Even from as far back as the street,
the height of the roofline overwhelmed the neighborhood. And contrary
to the claims of the applicant, the balloons were visible from Westmoreland
The Comprehensive Plan text for the Kirby Planning Sector states
that infill development in this sector should be of a compatible
use, type, and intensity in accordance with the guidance provided
by the Policy Plan under Land Use Objectives 8 and 14. Objective
14, policy G specifically calls for “the consideration of
the cumulative effect of institutional uses in an area prior to
allowing the location of additional institutional uses.” Clearly,
the aim of this policy is to protect residential neighborhoods from
the incremental additions of non-residential institutions.
And there are yet other policies in Objectives 8 and 14 that would
seemingly preclude the approval of this Special Exception:
- Policy B encourages infill development in established areas that
is compatible with existing and/or planned uses and that is at a
compatible scale with the surrounding areas.
- Policy C calls for achieving compatible transitions between adjoining
land uses through the control of height.
- And finally, Policy L calls for the regulation of the amount of
noise and light produced by non-residential land uses to minimize
impacts on nearby residential areas.
As for the noise we expect will be generated by this land use, assisted
living facilities are required to have power generation equipment
on-site to ensure the continuous supply of power. These units are
typically large generators driven by loud diesel engines which must
be started at least once a week and run for 15 minutes. In addition,
the applicant proposes to outfit each dwelling unit with individual
heat pumps units, known in the industry as through-the-wall units,
that will allow each resident to regulate the temperature of his
or her own room. The inexpensive models, while loud, are not objectionably
loud. However, if the noise of this unit is multiplied by 97 or
even 60 dwelling units, the noise will unacceptably high. Since
these are heat pumps that provide cooling and heating, they operate
all year round. Again, we have submitted development conditions
to limit the testing of the generators to a specific time each week
and to limit the operating noise of each heat pump to 6.5 Bels.
To the best of my knowledge, these conditions have not been included
in the Special Exception.
The height, size and scale of this building are incompatible with
the neighborhood. The applicant requires a setback waiver because
there is simply no room to site the building within the setbacks
as required by Article 9 of the Zoning Ordinance. As proposed, the
facility would be the third largest assisted living facility in
Fairfax County on a small parcel that has no direct frontage on
a collector or arterial street. We maintain an appropriate use of
this parcel would be a 60-70 bed facility, 50% percent larger than
the Fairfax County and national average of 48 beds. Removing the
objectionable upper floor would reduce the building to 68-70 beds,
a facility still larger than the planned affordable assisted living
facilities at Little River Glen II and Lewinsville Center.
I want to bring to the Commission’s attention an item I
read in a document titled, “Little River Glen II: Affordable
Assisted Living Feasibility dated October 3, 2003. This document
was prepared for the FC Redevelopment and Housing Authority by the
NCB Development Corporation. In discussing the various sources of
financing on page 9, the document contains the following statement:
“It has been suggested by some experts that designing an
affordable assisted living facility as all one-bedroom units with
small kitchens, to provide for its eventual conversion to independent
rental housing should that become necessary, is more enticing to
We would be unyielding opposed to any such conversion of this
facility. Article 20 of the Fairfax County Zoning Ordinance defines
an assisted living facility as: “(a) private living quarters,
which may include kitchen facilities limited to a sink, refrigerator
and/or microwave”. Accordingly, we have drafted a development
condition that precludes the applicant from installing an oven or
stove in the dwelling units. We have not yet received confirmation
that this condition has been accepted.
Another deficiency of the present Special Exception is the proposed
shared use of the applicant’s access road by Longfellow School.
This proposal, meant to alleviate the notorious congestion problem
at Longfellow School, is a placebo that will not have the intended
effect and, furthermore, it will create a hazardous situation for
students walking to school on the west side of Westmoreland Street.
It is unacceptable to have children crossing two lanes of traffic
without a crossing guard. Moreover, cars leaving Longfellow School
currently Kirby Court’s entrance to make a U-turn to return
to McLean. We anticipate that the number of cars using our street
for a U-turn will increase once the school ties into the applicant’s
access road. We request that this connection to Longfellow School
be denied until an uniformed policeman is assigned to the intersection
of Hopewood Drive and Westmoreland Street in the mornings and afternoon.
In it present form, this Special Exception is opposed by six homeowner’s
associations comprising over 500 residences. The Special Exception
application before you tonight has a long history. For nearly 3
years, in well over a dozen meetings with neighbors, the applicant
has repeatedly and continuously refused to reduce the size of the
building claiming the size is needed in order to offer 50% affordable
units to low income seniors. Yet, the applicant will not commit
to providing 50% of its beds to low and very-low income seniors.
We believe that close scrutiny of the applicant’s financial
plan will, in fact, reveal that they can indeed dedicate 50% of
their units to low-income elderly, even at a facility size of 70
beds. We respectfully request that the Planning Commission recommend
reducing the size of the facility by eliminating the top floor.
We further request that the Planning Commission recommend inclusion
of our development conditions concerning noise, the dedication of
units to low-income residents, and other specifics items related
to the safety of Longfellow students.