The Fairfax City Council approved a developer’s plans to replace the Layton Hall garden style apartments with a 360-unit complex.
Councilmembers, developers, and residents debated on the issue in a five-hour meeting Tuesday evening before the council ultimately approved the plans despite passionate pleas from current residents who resisted the move.
“I hope that the current residents can see that we are doing what we can to keep you in the city,” Councilmember Dan Drummond said. “As many of you know, I’m the son of a single mother, so when I hear those comments they don’t fall on deaf ears.’”
The council raised concerns on everything from affordable housing, to the impact on Accotink Creek, to adequate bike storage.
The current Layton Hall apartments in walking distance from the city’s Main Street are "1960s vintage 3-story walk-up apartments,” said Lynne Strobel, an attorney who represented the developer, Seventeenth Car Layton Hall Limited Partnership.
"We think this will create synergy with the downtown area…and an opportunity to have some more residents that will go to those businesses," Strobel said.
The proposed apartments would be five stories and would include underground parking and a recreation center for residents to include a swimming pool and exercise room.
Citing the concerns of affordable housing advocates, the developer presented the council with plans for 18 of the 360 apartment units to be set aside for those households making ether 80 percent of 70 percent of the area’s median income.
In the city of Fairfax, the median income is about $100,000, said Louise Armitage, human services coordinator for the city, during the council meeting.
“Currently, people at Layton Hall are working as teachers aids, in retail, or as truck drivers or home health care workers. They are making maybe $27,000 a year …. I think something that is more in the 50 percent range is justifiably affordable.”
The units would be set aside in the complex for 20 years in total. Strobel said they came to the conclusion on what defines “affordable” by modeling them after the standards for Fairfax County.
“That would be the maximum required for a developer in Fairfax County,” Strobel said.
But many residents said the concessions were simply not enough and that many of them would have to find another place to live.
“Before I moved to Fairfax I lived in Baltimore and commuted everyday for 10 years. I was overjoyed when I found an apartment I could afford in Fairfax," Charles Bobosh, who lives in Layton Hall, said. “My family works here and goes to school here, and I’d love to stay here.”
“These are real people, they are our neighbors,” said Henry Brinton, pastor at Fairfax Presyterian Church. “We need to be fair to them and to be fair to the other residents who will be effected to other developments that lie ahead.”
“This is just the beginning of the redevelopments,” Brinton continued. “I fear what will happen to them.”
Several Fairfax residents also spoke up in support of the project, including a representative of the Farrcroft Homeowners Association, a neighboring community.
“This project increases our attractiveness to young professionals and it would increase the patronage of our business,” the representative said.
The council approved the project unanimously.
“I think this illustrates a deliberative process,” said Councilman Steven Strombres. “While I’m truly appreciative of this first step that the developer made … I’m also saying that this shouldn’t be the precedent of what we are going to do.”