Kirby Court HOA PC Testimony re: CAALF
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    you are here: home > activities > letters > Kirby Court HOA PC Testimony re: CAALF
    SE 2003-DR-022 Chesterbrook Residences Inc

    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 Longfellow School.

    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 Street.

    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 investors”.

    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.

    Thank you

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