Fairfax County
South County Center and Land Swap Deal
 (Office Building Covenant for the Groveton property)

Jim Walton
James_P_Walton [at] ieee.org  
MVCCA P&Z committee member
Mt. Zephyr Citizens Association
Safe Crossings Campaign www.metroped.org
Member, SFDC area advisory committee



Applications to rezone three parcels ranging in size from 1.23 acres to 15.75 acres on the Richmond Highway corridor to the high-density Planned Residential Mixed-Use zoning district have been submitted to Fairfax County.  Four years after acquiring the old Groveton School site as part of a deal with Fairfax County to build the South County Government Center on Richmond Highway, Madison Development Partners is seeking a change to the original agreement. 

Source and additional details: :The Fairfax Newsletter


Rte. 1 Office Vacancies Now at 7% Is there a need for more office space on Richmond Highway?

Madison Development Partners, which has been working for the past couple of years to find tenants for the office building it contracted with Fairfax County to build at the former Groveton school site at Richmond Highway and Memorial Drive at Beacon Hill, has made public statements that the office market in Fairfax County is soft...

Source and additional details: Mount Vernon Voice by Steve Hunt November 25, 2004


Wrong Way for Route 1?

Becky Witsman sees a trend, and she's not sure she likes it. As the director of Southeast Fairfax Development Corporation (SFDC), she is responsible for maintaining the balance of Richmond Highway. She is concerned that the projects that developers are applying for are not in keeping with long-range plans.

Source and additional details: Mount Vernon Gazette by Gale Curcio November 18, 2004 



For those of you who are interested, it is my understanding that a further discussion of the Groveton School site proposal will be held at the next meeting of the Lee District Land Use Committee on Monday, November 15, 2004. The location of the meeting is the Franconia Governmental Center, 6121 Franconia Road. The meeting will begin at 7:00 p.m.

Diane Donley  P&Z Chair, MVCCA  
rom: "Diane Donley" Sent: Sunday, November 14, 2004 11:19 AM Subject: Discussion of Groveton School Site Proposal


Question suggested for this meeting 

Thank you for the heads up. Unfortunately I will not be able to attend , but I hope many of our colleagues
will be able to. Note, this is not an "us vs. them" both groups have same goals to improve Rich. hwy. This is what has been instrumental in the past for revitalization efforts. It seems that they may have only heard one side 
of the story so far and have not heard all the issues. I am sure there are additional issues that we have not yet heard.

- four thousand daily vehicles trips added to the immediate streets. If getting through Beacon Hill
is tough now on a weekend, think what will happen when 4000 trips are added to this.

- Office use will not overflow parking to our neighborhoods on nights and weekends. Just ask anyone in Arlington who lives near an apartment complex about overflow parking. 

- Office use will not crowd our streets on nights and weekends

- Office use provides critical daytime patronage of restaurants

- Eliminating office space requirement means loss of opportunity of quality office space forever. This was a primary reason for the county land swap subsidy.

- Land is currently not blighted, and could be aesthetically improved with minimal landscaping efforts. Something
that had not been done to date.

- A developer at Buckman Rd is planning 60,000 Ft of office space - and that is at a significantly less prime location
and without a county land subsidy. Certainly 70,000 is feasible at this prime location.

- If this is a "luxury" residential facility, people with cars loath to use the bus, especially if it does not get them there faster.

Any changes in the plan should maintain the original intent of minimum of 70,000 sq ft of office space for long term revitalization of Richmond Hwy.


Jim Walton
MVCCA P&Z committee member
Mt. Zephyr Citizens Association
Safe Crossings Campaign www.metroped.org
Member, SFDC area advisory committee



1. Have you been involved with this project from the beginning?
For "project", I assume you mean the deal for the South County Center and Land Swap Deal (Office Building Covenant for the Groveton property). I have been aware of the project once the county publicly announced its solution in 1999 or 2000 (after it worked it for two years).

2. Are you more concerned about the effect of the building on the area or the fact that they are reneging on the original agreement?
Both, I am concerned we will lose opportunity for high-quality office space at a prime location. Quality office space has been key to long term revitalization efforts along Richmond Hwy. I do not think the original agreement could have been worded more strongly for this. It has words such as "buy back" and "sue for performance" to ensure a "Class A" office building. This was critical for BOTH business and community support for the
deal. It appears that although the words were serious then, no one is taking them serious now.

As for a residential development itself, if I lived in the area I would be more concerned if I lived adjacent to it or on the shady (East) side of Route 1. I would be concerned that this could be an apartment complex or condo complex that could become a high-rental complex(i.e. non-owner occupied). I would also be very concerned about the overflow of parking from the development. Just ask anyone in Arlington who lives near an apartment complex. Instead of this just an "8x5" problem (which can be addressed with 3 hour parking limits) it becomes a nighttime and weekend problem for the rest of eternity. I would also be concerned about the fighting with the extra two or three thousand cars trips trying to access Richmond Hwy on evening and especially on weekends.

3. How do you think Mount Zephyr will be impacted if the revised plan goes through?
Revitalization is a long term effort and requires a mix of residential and commercial improvements. The Richmond hwy area is getting better and will need room for quality office space sometime in the future. If we lose this
opportunity for quality office space in a prime location, I fear revitalization will stagnate in the future. This will be bad for everyone.

4. Do you plan to keep fighting the amendment, and if so, how?
Yes. But I am not sure how much more I can do than to provide information to the newspapers, which in turn will provide information to the community leaders. One person cannot effect a change, but a community can. Right
now, I think people are only getting one side of the story, hopefully they will told both sides and base their decisions knowing all the information (including all opinions).

5. Are you president of the civic association?
Yes, I am the President of the Mt. Zephyr Citizen's Association.
Also, member of SFDC Area Advisory committee, and
Safe Crossings Campaign, www.MetroPed.Org

6. Any other thoughts you want to share?
Beacon Hill is sandwiched between growing Fort Belvoir to the South and the growing office developments on Eisenhower Ave. With Fort Belvoir just four miles to the south and Patent Trade Office complex just three miles to
north- this certainly seems like a viable candidate for office space in the future.   A developer about a mile down the road, with a much more difficult situation and without a land subsidy from the County plans to build a mixed
use development with 60,000 sq ft office space. If that developer believes it can be done, certainly 70,000 sq ft in a prime location can also be accomplished. Hopefully, the county will recall the wisdom of their original dream for this location and ensure that intent is still somehow met.

Jim Walton


Draft Resolution: GROVETON SITE and SCC Land Swap deal

WHEREAS: The land at the old Groveton school site was swapped with the developer of the South County Center; the developer was required to build a Class A office building at this site that is currently zoned commercial
(C-3), and

WHEREAS: As stated in Supervisor's Hyland's memorandum dated January 22, 2000 "* Construction of a second quality office building on the Groveton site will serve to attract other redevelopment initiatives, stimulate additional economic development on Richmond Hwy and create new jobs for local residents "*The addition of two new office buildings will help to address the short supply of Class-A office space on Richmond Highway"
And that these benefits were significant factors for community and business support for the project, and

WHEREAS Fairfax County, and the Mount Vernon District specifically, needs more commercial properties to diversify the tax base, and Fairfax County goal is to raise it from currently about 18% now to 25%, and

WHEREAS: The developer of the site paid no real estate taxes on the land until 2004, and

WHEREAS: The county can buy the land back if the developer did not open the second building by August 3, 2004, the county could buy the site back for $500,000 - half the selling price(1), and

WHEREAS: The property is currently assessed by the county for approximately $2.8 Million, and

WHEREAS: Rezoning application RZ-2004-LE-012 (Madison Development Partners) was accepted on April 6, 2004 by the Fairfax County staff. The applicant is requesting to rezone the 4.59 acre site from C-3 (office zone) to the PRM (planned residential mixed use zone) to allow for the development of approximately 300 residential units with ancillary retail and office at a 1.8 FAR. And,

WHEREAS: The statement by the developer "even during the high office demand years of the high-tech/communication office driven boom, this location was unsuccessful in attracting a tenant" (2) indicates that the developer understood the "near term" feasibility of the site for a Class A building, and

WHEREAS: The existing site, although undeveloped, is not a blighted property and could remain undeveloped without adverseaffect on the area, and

WHEREAS: Economy is improving, significant development is expected at Fort Belvoir and throughout the corridor over the next 10 years, and that revitalization is a long term effort that will span more than a decade, and
that job forecasts predict consistent and significant increased job growth over the next decade(3),

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED: That the Mount Vernon Council of Citizens' Associations opposes the rezoning of the property, and requests the BOS wait at least an additional 5 years (Summer 2009) before considering any rezoning or out-of-turn plan amendments applications, and such applicants present their case to the MVCCA,

BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED: That the Board of Supervisors of Fairfax County exercise the buy-back option, as offered in good faith to the citizens to support the project, and especially since the value of the property is estimated to be over five times times the buy-back price and that and potential lost taxes will be insignificant
compared to a resale of the property.

(1) Source:http://www.sfdc.org/SouthCountyCenter/QuestionandAnswer.html
(2) Source:http://www.sfdc.org/Press/FairfaxPRMDistrictProposed.html from The Fairfax Newsletter , by Gina McQuinn , Thursday, April 15, 2004; Page 1
(3) Source: http://www.gmupolicy.net/cra/forecasts.htm Last charts"State of the Market 2004 Greater Washington Commercial Association of REALTORS - February 17, 2004"