Planning commission OKs access-limiting gates for Herndon development

One Sunrise Valley developer Bittersweet Fields LLC got approval to amend its plan for the residential project in Herndon (via Fairfax County)

A large residential development planned in Herndon will be allowed to use two access gates — at least for a few hours on weekdays, eventually.

Pomeroy Clark I, the land owner and developer, got Fairfax County’s approval late last month to amend its plans for One Sunrise Valley, which will deliver 1,093 housing units on about 44 acres of land near the Frying Pan Road and Sunrise Valley Drive intersection.

Asked by the developer to revise the plan after it was originally approved in 2019, the Fairfax County Planning Commission got hung up on one detail: whether to allow two gates that would restrict access to the development. Ultimately, the commission approved use of the gates under certain circumstances at a public hearing on April 24.

The approved application also asked for changes to the mix of housing planned at the development, including a replacement of 84 stacked townhouses with 69 triplex units in a block designated as Land Unit D.

At a January public hearing, county staff favored eliminating the gates, concerned that they would hamper the pedestrian experience and “impede circulation,” while also potentially making it difficult for trash collectors, delivery vehicles and others to navigate the site.

A representative for the developer argued the access gates are necessary to stop non-residents from parking at the site during drop-off and pick-up times for a new elementary school planned nearby.

Now, the developer has permission to include the gates — under the condition that they will only close them “on weekdays 1.5 hours before and after classes begin and 1.5 hours before and after school dismisses,” according to a staff memo.

The school in question doesn’t exist yet, though the Fairfax County School Board approved a transfer of the nearly 5.6-acre future site in February. There is no set timeline for its construction, Dranesville District Commissioner John Ulfelder said at the April 24 planning commission meeting.

Even as they approved the gates, commissioners acknowledged that enforcement would be a challenge.

“We have 10 years before a school is built,” Commission Chairman Phil Niedzielski-Eichner said. “It’s not going to sit there open for 10 years, it’ll get used, and it’ll do exactly what we don’t want to have happen, and that’s close off access and egress and so on and so forth. So, it is what it is.”

Former Franconia District Commissioner Dan Lagana, who resigned at the end of April, called enforcement on the gates “questionable” but said he supported the application.

Niedzielski-Eichner also reiterated support for the overall development.

“It’s a nice development, well thought through,” he said.