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Cornerstones proposes supportive housing near West Ox Road

The Fair Ridge Residential at West Ox development would bring 35 residential units to the Sully District (via Fairfax County)

A local nonprofit organization wants to tackle homelessness and the lack of affordable housing in Fairfax County with a new project in the Fair Oaks area.

Cornerstones, a Reston-based organization that provides shelter, food and other services to individuals and families in need, is proposing to construct supportive housing on a little over 1 acre of land near the Route 50 and West Ox Road interchange.

The Fairfax County Redevelopment and Housing Authority currently owns the two parcels, which would be developed with 34 residential units designed for one-person households.

County staff say a noise impact study would be a defining component in considering a comprehensive plan amendment for the project, which is called “Fair Ridge Residential at West Ox.” Initiated by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors on Feb. 22, 2022, the amendment is needed to allow affordable housing on the site.

Cornerstones has also submitted a rezoning application for the planned three-story building that’s under review.

The proposal was met with mixed feedback from area residents and community organizations at a Jan. 22 community meeting.

Some raised concerns about increased crime and drug use on the site. Others said they were empathetic to the struggles of individuals in need, but the impact to the surrounding community should be carefully considered.

“These people are going to be bringing in crime. How much crime do they bring in?” resident William Clerkin fretted.

Amy Lemiu, a resident of Fair Oak Estates, said neighbors are concerned about the project.

“I heard about it via NextDoor,” she said, asking why neighboring residents were not made aware of the proposal.

But others like Joshua Booth, speaking on behalf of of YIMBYs (Yes In My Backyard) of NOVA, said the project fulfills a major need in the county, which is often not affordable for residents without any complicating circumstances.

“I can’t imagine how it is for people who have difficult personal lives,” he said.

Lynn Strobel, the applicant’s representative and a land use attorney with Walsh Colucci Lubuley & Walsh, emphasized that the development is not intended to serve the purpose of transient housing.

“This is an opportunity for individuals to have stability in a very supportive setting, and I think that they are well-monitored in this setting,” Strobel said.

Cornerstones CEO Kerri Wilson also emphasized that applicants are screened for their credit, criminal background and other factors related to eligibility.

In addition to operating the Embry Rucker Community Shelter in Reston, Cornerstones owns 104 townhomes and condominiums designated for low-income families and individuals in Reston, Herndon and Centreville.

The future residents of Fair Ridge Residential — like those at any other housing development — would be allowed to have alcohol on site if they’re of legal age, according to Wilson. The development will, however, have 24/7 resident services and on-site case management referrals for people with substance use disorders.

She also emphasized that Cornerstones is a community partner that will remain active in the management of the project.

“We’re landlords that want to be there,” Wilson said.

Public hearings on the plan amendment by the Board of Supervisors and planning commission will likely take place in May. If the county approves the project, it would take another roughly two-and-a-half years before residents would be able to move into the new facility.

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