The Rose Hill Coalition (https://rosehillcoalition.org) is in the urgent process of stopping the rezoning of the Rose Hill Shopping Center in Alexandria, VA, from commercial to mixed-use. The Coalition was formed in response to plans that were presented earlier this year by Combined Properties, Inc. (CP) to two local civic associations, which proposes to reduce retail at the center by more than 70% and add 400+ residential rental units.
On October, 25, CP formally submitted an application for rezoning to the Fairfax Board of Supervisors. This is the required first step to change zoning restrictions outlined in the Comprehensive Plan (referred to as a Site Specific Plan Amendment or SSPA). The Board will vote at its Tuesday, December 6, 2022, meeting whether to allow the application to go forward for consideration by the County and the public under the SSPA review process. This multi-step process will allow for public comment at several stages.
However, due to recent changes in the SSPA process which accelerates the timeline, the Coalition is urging local residents to contact Lee District Supervisor Rodney Lust and the BOS to voice their opposition “out of the gate” prior to their meeting on Tuesday.
The Coalition contends that CP did not take into consideration the objections voiced by the community. Furthermore, CP presented a second design that added new elements which also contradicted and ignored the wishes of the community.
Objections include, but are not limited to, the following:
–Increased traffic from additional 400+ residents in already stressed transportation corridor on Rose Hill Drive, Franconia Road, and Van Dorn (north and south).
–Reduction in walk-able retail and office from 154,000 square feet to less than 75,000 square feet.
–Imposition of high-intensity development in an established low-density-zoned residential district.
–The proposed four- and six-level apartment complex will be visually inconsistent with the surrounding one- and two-level single family homes.
–The local infrastructure is not designed to support increased energy and water use and there are no future County plans or funding are in place to improve them.
–School traffic to and from Bush Hill Elementary and Rose Hill Elementary already significantly impedes traffic on Rose Hill Dr, Westchester St, and Franconia Rd.
–The design creates a dangerous four-way intersection at Westchester St and Franconia Rd just several hundred feet from Rose Hill Dr and Franconia Rd.
–The proposal reduces retail by two-thirds, thus negating future walk-ability if there is little to “walk to”.
–Additional environmental emissions due to increased traffic from 400+ more vehicles from renters (plus visitors).
–Demolition and construction will last two years during which there will be no shopping center, except for McDonalds which is separately owned.
–The majority of the 25+ businesses currently serving the community at the Plaza will disappear.
The Coalition contends that CP has no incentive to alter their plan as presented. Combined Properties Inc (https://www.combined.biz/) is a billion dollar real estate investment company and has multiple residential, retail, and mixed-use developments in Fairfax County. The cost to demolish and reconstruct the shopping center and guarantee long-term profit to investors requires the proposed ~400 residential rental units be central to the design.
Contrary to CP’s application, the Coalition argues that the property does in fact utilize and provide proximity to business centers, public transportation, and experiential retail/amenities. More than 25 businesses occupy the center and are considered an integral part of the community.
Although the County is aggressively seeking options to increase the amount of housing, the Coalition argues that CP’s proposal and change in zoning application contradicts the Comprehensive Plan for the Rose Hill Planning Area. Residents believe that allowing an exception to the zoning in this case would irreparably alter the character, safety, and quality of life in their highly diverse community.
Alternatively, the Coalition presents that the shopping center is an integral part of the community and that the center is a commercial success. “We hope that Combined Properties sees this an opportunity to improve the shopping center rather than set it up for failure in order to justify a change in zoning,” said Sharada Gilkey, founder of the Coalition. “We would like to work with CP to support the center and ensure the success of its businesses, small and large.”
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