Indian Head citizens debate effects of possible new development
Affects of proposed Indian Head development debated
The Cook Inlet Region Inc. (CIRI) property owners in Indian Head believe town officials made a mistake by split zoning the well-known parcel of land.
David W. Cooksey, Soltesz engineer and designer, and Scott Law Group LLC presented a concept plan to the planning commission members in 2016 on behalf of the CIRI property owners. On Feb. 15, the Town of Indian Head Planning Commission held a public hearing at the Village Green Pavilion in order to receive public comments about the CIRI property rezoning amendment.
The proposed amendment would change the zoning classification of parcel 609 from the cur- rent split zoning of onethird open space and two-thirds Town Center Mixed Use (TCMX) to the entire parcel being rezoned to TCMX.
“The owners are asking for an amendment to the zoning of approximately 7 acres of land zoned as open space due to a mapping error. The owners would need to use 2-3 acres of the open space zoned property for the construction of 164 townhomes on the property, similar to that of Riverwatch Commons,” said attorney Roger Fink with the Scott Law Group LLC.
Soltesz believes the proposed development would be consistent with the comprehensive plan, as well as the town’s goals and objectives for land use, municipal growth, economic development, natural resource protection and transportation.
“The town officials could not tell us as to why that zoning was placed on that property . ... Based on all of the surrounding zoning, the TCMX zoning should be put in place, which is compatible with what the rest of the property is in,” Cooksey said.
Lucinda Stevens, the Town of Indian Head’s zoning and engineering consultant, said the staff believes the site is suit- able for the proposed TCMX development.
“We looked at changes in the character of the neighborhood and we agree that it appears the zoning line was drawn in error,” Stevens said. “It is unusual for private property to be zoned as open space. It was most likely made to protect and preserve the environmental- ly sensitive areas.”
Planning commission member Warren Bowie agreed.
He added, “Back in 1988, the CIRI owners requested that the same parcel be changed from R1 zoning to commercial zoning, saying that it was a mistake in the zoning at that time. The planning commission and the town council [at that time] approved that at the owners’ request. How many times do we change zoning and say it was a mistake?”
The CIRI representatives said they had no knowledge of the previ- ous zoning change from that year.
“Historically, looking at the property, it belonged to the United States gov- ernment,” said Vice May- or Ron Sitoula. “This was government owned land so I do not believe there was any mistake or in- consistency when it was zoned open space at the time.”
Michael Pellegrino, chairman of Indian Head Planning Commission, agreed with Sitoula.
Pellegrino said the steep slopes included in the en- vironmentally sensitive section of the open space zoned area are also a ma- jor concern for him. He believes that the rezoning amendment for the CIRI parcel is not consistent with the town’s comprehensive plan.
Planning commission member Thomas Blake disagreed.
“I was not inclined to approve [the development plans] initially. However, I witnessed them make the adjustments to it that we wanted. From a business standpoint it’s meticulous- ly detailed and outlined in every step they made to preserve the land and environmental issues. They pointed out that the initial zoning was proba- bly an error and I do hope the adjustments will be made,” Blake said.
Sybil Morris, a River- watch Commons resi- dent, said she came to the public hearing to review the plan in its entirety but it is very extensive. She is curious as to what the company will do if the zoning is not changed and the owners do not have enough space to build.
Her husband, Timothy Morris, said he is worried about the preservation of wildlife and how the new development would affect the deer living in nearby wooded areas.
Jessica Jackson, a resident from Villages of Potomac at Indian Head, voiced her concerns about the new development having the same ac- cess road — Dr. Andrews Way — as her neighborhood.
“That is the only access road for Villages Potomac, in addition to the school traffic,” Jackson said. “We are also limited with parking, and the new development may feel entitled to park in our development which would further limit our parking.”
Cooksey said there will be a substantial amount of residential and guest parking — 503 parking spaces in total, including street parking.
Several residents also expressed concern about the TCMX concept plan consisting of mostly residential development, although the new zoning is supposed to be for commercial use as well. Residents explained the town is really suffering, so there is a need for more business in the local economy.
Fink said the town needs more residents first in order to draw in more commercial development.
According to Stevens, the staff recommends approval of the rezoning of open space to TCMX with the following conditions: the environmentally sensitive areas are placed in a perpetual conservation easement (including the streams, their buffers and steep slopes) to allow a natural buffer to remain along the common property boundary with the Naval Support Facility Indian Head, and compliance with the provisions for the town’s forest conservation ordinance.
The planning commission will leave the record for public comments open for 10 days. For more information, contact town hall at 301-743-5511.
The Cook Inlet Region Inc. (CIRI) rezoned concept plans created by Soltesz engineer and designer David W. Cooksey; presented at the Town of Indian Head Planning Commission public hearing on Feb. 15.