Townhomes Proposed for Seneca Road

05 Jul 2022 10:38 AM | Peter Falcone (Administrator)

An open letter from a local developer describing a proposal to build four townhomes on a parcel on Seneca Road has galvanized neighbors in vigorous opposition.  Some have suggested that the plan could open the door for townhouse proposals elsewhere in the Great Falls community.

At a meeting of the GFCA Land Use and Zoning Committee (LUZ) on Tuesday June 14, a GFCA member and the president of the Seneca Gate Homeowners Association provided a letter from the developer, Bruce Leinberger of Danforth Homes.  The letter indicated that Leinberger, a former Great Falls resident, has a contract to purchase the parcel for the purpose of building four age-restricted townhomes equipped with elevators and that, in his opinion, there is a need for this type of housing in Great Falls. 

The parcel, located at 1002 Sherman Court, is an undeveloped one-acre (+/-) lot zoned R-1 which is adjacent to the Seneca Gate Homeowners eight-home subdivision and the Seneca Square shopping center (see red dot on accompanying image).  The parcel also contains a cemetery.  County land records provide details that it was established by an early Great Falls family and that it has requirements for perpetual care. 

Following the LUZ meeting, an estimated 60 persons appeared at the proposed site on Saturday morning, June 18, to attend a three-hour fact-finding session conducted by the developer.  The LUZ Chair spoke with every person in attendance over that period and concluded that not one person expressed support for the proposal.  In fact, she noted several residents engaged in heated exchanges with Mr. Leinberger.   

To build a townhome cluster in a residential R-1 District where the parcel is located, county policies would require a rezoning of the parcel.  A rezoning application would entail a detailed review and analysis by staff and public hearings before the Fairfax County Planning Commission and the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors.  The rezoning of land can only be approved by that board.  Moreover, the County’s Comprehensive Plan promotes the preservation of the community’s low-density environment.  There are currently no townhomes in Great Falls. 

The GFCA LUZ chair described this case as presenting a unique and significant zoning issue for GFCA and the community because of the age-restriction aspect.  The LUZ chair noted that the zoning regulations are exceedingly complex as applied to this type of proposal.  Furthermore, the precise nature of the project remains in question as formal development plans have yet to be submitted. 

At least two options appear to be available to the developer.  The proposal could be submitted as a development of four townhomes which would require a Comprehensive Plan Amendment and rezoning, or it could be submitted to Fairfax County Department of Planning & Development as an Independent Living Facility which would entail an application for a Special Exception.  If it is submitted as a Special Exception project, many requirements have to be met in order to qualify for approval.  At a minimum, these would include:

  • Provisions for an Affordable Dwelling Unit as part of the four-unit townhome development,
  • Amenities, such as on-site meal programs,
  • Provision of common areas,
  • Special architectural features that would facilitate use by the intended residents,
  • Transportation; and,
  • Support services and staff.

GFCA has also learned that Mr. Leinberger requested a “pre-application consultation” with Fairfax County Zoning Evaluation Division staff to review his concept and advise him on what requirements he must meet.  He has also been extended an invitation to attend a meeting of the LUZ Committee when he has more information to provide.

Several GFCA LUZ committee members have expressed their views that there could be widespread opposition to any plans for townhomes to be developed in Great Falls because of its current low-density semi-rural character.  Based on the preliminary nature of this proposal, and the series of county approvals needed to move it forward, community feedback will be sought at every step. 

Interested persons are invited to submit their comments or ask to receive email updates on this project.  Please email: Jennifer.Falcone@GFCA.org

Great Falls Citizens Association
PO Box 27  •  Great Falls, VA  •  22066 

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