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The Fairfax Presbyterian Church wants to repurpose 1.6 acres of its parking lot for 10 townhomes for lower-income people.

It’s holding another open house tomorrow (Saturday) at 10 a.m. in its fellowship hall with a question-and-answer session about the proposed project, which requires Fairfax City Council to rezone the area.

The church is seeking to partner with three nonprofits and help house individuals currently making $79,700 or less as well as families of four with an income of $113,850 or less, targeting people in the 40% to 80% range of the area median income.

The church envisions offering a 30-year mortgage, but with land leased at $1 per year, it will remove some $100,000 to $300,000 in land costs that other homeowners might face. Building height and design would be comparable to nearby buildings on the eastern border of the property, according to an application.

The proposed project comes through a partnership with Habitat for Humanity of Northern Virginia, homeless services organization Homestretch and HomeAid Northern Virginia, which is tied to the Northern Virginia Building Industry Association.

“Eight units will be sold with a long-term ground sublease to income eligible Habitat NOVA families and two of the units will be sold to Homestretch for their Sacred Homes Program,” the church’s application says.

However, a representative of a local advocacy group for affordable housing says city staff seem to be catering to a handful of vocal opponents, thereby putting up roadblocks.

Judy Fisher said the city has required two traffic studies so far to understand changes from the pandemic, but then asked for a third traffic study. She said it’s creating hardship for the project, which has relied on pro bono work for the studies.

City spokesman Matthew Kaiser said the project’s application was received May 6, 2022, and is currently under its first round of review.

“There will be only one traffic study,” he wrote in an email.

But Fisher said the church decided to pursue the project five years ago, and the partnership submitted two applications in 2021, receiving staff comments.

“There has been what feels like not very good cooperation from the city,” she said. “It feels like obstruction.”

According to a church flier, it submitted a rezoning application last year in February and resubmitted it Oct. 27.

The flier says the church has committed up to $400,000 with the land to serve families needing affordable housing.

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Morning Notes

The Filene Center at Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

Police Make Progress on Hannah Choi Murder Case — Fairfax County detectives believe they know the location of the man suspected of killing his ex-girlfriend and dumping her body in a Maryland park, according to Police Chief Kevin Davis. He says the department anticipates apprehending Joel Mosso Merino, who has been on the run since March, “in the very near future.” [WTOP]

Circuit Court Officially Adds First Female Judge of Color — “Tania M.L. Saylor, the first woman of color to serve as a Fairfax County Circuity [sic] Court Judge will be presented her official commission on Friday, May 6, at 4 p.m. in Courtroom 5J of the Fairfax County Courthouse. The public is invited to attend the investiture ceremony.” [Fairfax County Government]

Key FCPS Official Named Fairfax City Superintendent — “The City of Fairfax School Board didn’t look far when picking its next superintendent. The board on Monday offered Jeff Platenberg the role. Platenberg currently works for Fairfax County Public Schools as the assistant superintendent for facilities and transportation services.” [WTOP]

Locally Owned Coffee Shop Opens in Newington — “Two neighbors who live close to the Landsdowne shopping center are now the owners of a new coffee shop. The locally owned Coffee In opened a few weeks ago and will celebrate its grand opening this Saturday at 6432 Landsdowne Centre Drive.” [Patch]

Herndon Foster Mother Starts Nonprofit — The nonprofit Foster the Family “will show up to a foster home, within the first 24 hours, with dinner, clothes, PJ’s, hygiene products and all the supplies a child needs, saving the parents an emergency trip to the store, and helping the child feel comfortable in what can be a scary transition.” [ABC7]

McLean Church Builds Labyrinth — “Trinity United Methodist Church dedicated a labyrinth as its new Prayer Garden on Easter morning between worship services…The labyrinth is surrounded by plantings and benches with lighting to facilitate an atmosphere worthy of spiritual reflection and meditation. It is the most significant labyrinth in scope and size in the McLean area.” [Sun Gazette]

South County Students Send Letters to Seniors — “In Lorton, Virginia, 92-year-old Bernice Alexander reads from just one of the dozens of letters received at her senior living community. They were written by teenagers at South County High School, and some come with artwork, paintings and cheery posters, too.” [NBC4]

County Adopts Bill of Rights for Kids’ Sports — “The Fairfax County Department of Neighborhood & Community Services (NCS), along with the Fairfax County Athletic Council, is pleased to adopt the Children’s Bill of Rights in Sports. Developed by the Aspen Institute Sports and Society Program, this is a new resource designed to ensure that all children have a right to a quality sports experience.” [NCS]

It’s Wednesday — Mostly cloudy throughout the day. High of 75 and low of 61. Sunrise at 6:08 am and sunset at 8:05 pm. [Weather.gov]

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La Biblia Church Ministries proposed building on Popes Head Road (via Fairfax County)

A two-story church just shy of 50,000 square feet in size is coming soon to Fairfax.

La Biblia Church Ministries, Inc. is seeking the county’s blessing to build the church, which will be located at 11600 Popes Head Road.

Although the Board of Zoning Appeals approved the project in October of last year, the board required the applicant to apply for a special permit before proceeding with construction.

The church would be constructed in a single phase, but interior improvements would be phased out, starting with plans to build a 650-seat fellowship hall. A second phase of improvements would include a sanctuary with up to 1,000-set hall.

Classrooms are also planned as part of the project, but it currently does not include a private or nursery school.

The latest application to Fairfax County increases the number of parking spaces from 224 to 302, along with similar increases in the amount of undisturbed and open space.

The project butts heads with the Virginia Department of Transportation’s plan to improve the Fairfax County Parkway and Popes Head Road. The ministry group plans to dedicate roughly 26,00 square feet of the right-of-way required to move that project forward.

A single access point to Popes Head Road is proposed during the first phase of development. A connection to Shirley Gate Road is planned during the second phase.

A series of public hearings prompted La Biblia Church to tweak its proposal. The building was shifted further north to allow further separation from Popes Head Road. More landscaping is also proposed between the road and building while access to the main road is more linear.

The house on the property will remain for a member of the proposed church.

The application has been flagged for a number of deficiencies in submission materials.

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Temple Baptist Church (via Template Baptist Church)

A longtime Herndon church is planning a move deep into Ashburn.

Template Baptist Church, located at 1545 Dranesville Church, plans to open a new church campus. The church currently has 19 acres of land at Marley Corner.

“Although we enjoy our beautiful facilities, we’ve pretty much outgrown them at our current location in Herndon,” the church said in a statement.

Miller Brothers, Inc. and Building God’s Way have partnered on the project. Currently, the main frame of the building is taking shape.

The move — the date of which has not been determined yet — comes as a housing development takes shape on the former McMillen Farm lot adjacent to the church.

A development of 13 single-family units is planned on nearly six acres of land. Tradition Homes, an Arlington-based company, successfully sought the county’s approval to rezone the property to allow additional density on the site. The site was previously approved for one unit per acre.

Church representatives did not provide comment on whether its move is related to the development. Currently, the site has been razed and leveled.

Tradition acquired the property in 2019.

The developer is working with Fairfax County on plans to establish a memorial to commemorate the historical significance of McMillen Farm, which was home to a house, a garage, shed, conservatory, and barn. The elements of the property were constructed in the early 1900s.

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A site-specific amendment paves the way for more affordable housing for seniors in the Mason District (via Fairfax County)

A 113-unit independent living facility for seniors in Seven Corners is moving forward in the Fairfax County’s planning and approval process.

The Board of Supervisors will consider a plan next month by First Christian Church and developer Wesley Housing to build a 113-unit living facility, along with up to 5,000 square feet of medical and general office space at 6165 Leesburg Pike. A public hearing is slated for April 12.

The 7-acre parcel is developed with the roughly 27,500-square-foot church, which was built in 1965.

The Fairfax County Planning Commission unanimously approved the proposal — which implements  changes to the Comprehensive Plan — at a meeting on Wednesday night (March 23).

At previous meetings, residents and community members expressed concerns about tree canopy preservation and stormwater management.

Mason District Commissioner Julie Strandlie said many concerns can be addressed once the proposal moves forward to the zoning process.

“The comprehensive plan outlines priorities and aspirations for the community,” she said. “A zoning application will drill down to specifics about the building parking stormwater management tree canopy and more.”

To move the project forward, the county has to amend its Comprehensive Plan. The review process began in January 2021 and has involved analyses of impacts on stormwater management, tree preservation, landscaping, and parking.

As part of the review, the county is conducting a transportation analysis of Dar Al-Hijrah Islamic Center, a mosque in Barcroft, just outside the Seven Corners Community Business Center, that is eyeing expansion in the near future.

Currently, the area is mostly developed with residential neighborhoods.

In a report, staff said the plan has minimal impacts on existing county services like parks, schools, and the overall transportation network.

A Mason District Task Force created by the board voted unanimously in January to support the project. But it encouraged the county to consider if other transit options could lessen the need for new parking spaces in order to minimize their use.

Tree preservation and minimizing environmental impacts will maintain a critical part of decision-making, county staff said in their report.

Staff expects that the amount of parking will be evaluated during the entitlement review process.

The application to amend the comprehensive plan was part of a two-year-long process that courted site-specific revisions from the public for the South County area.

In public hearings, residents of the neighboring Ravenwood Park neighborhood shared concerns about major flooding in their neighborhood. One resident reported “sleepless nights during storms” and more than $50,000 in repair costs.

Strandlie said the county is working with the Virginia Department of Transportation to address flooding issues and stormwater management.

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