Patrons of tennis club lose bid to prevent redevelopment – Inside NoVA

Longtime users of the Four Seasons Tennis Club of Merrifield pleaded unsuccessfully with the Board of Supervisors Oct. 24 to prevent a builder from redeveloping the site for a housing project.

While sympathetic to the residents’ desire to keep the recreational facility, supervisors unanimously approved the project, saying the property’s elderly owners were entitled to sell and retire and have their site redeveloped by Sekas Homes Ltd.

Sekas will build “Four Seasons at Mosaic,” which will contain 127 multi-family units in a 188,000-square-foot, five-story, U-shaped building with underground parking. The developer also will build 40 townhouses on the site’s southern area. The 5.57-acre property is on the west side of Eskridge Road.

In addition, Sekas Homes will build a child-care care with a maximum enrollment of 143 students, which will occupy a 10,655-square-foot area within the multi-family area. A 5,400-square-foot children’s play area will be located west of the multi-family building.

The development will continue the high-quality urban design already created in the Mosaic District, said Lori Greenlief, the applicant’s attorney. The project’s open spaces will exceed requirements and its new roadways will contribute toward creation of Merrifield’s new street grid, she said.

“This development is positive for Merrifield in many ways,” Greenlief said. “It takes a site that currently has no stormwater controls and brings it up to the county’s high standards.”

The site’s overall floor-area ratio will be 1.2, including bonus density for providing 17 affordable/workforce dwelling units, and 29 percent of the property will be open space. Parks will be located in both the multi-family and single-family areas and a 40-by-270-foot “urban plaza” with a water feature will be built along Eskridge Road.

Sekas Homes will build three new access points from Eskridge Road, which will connect with private streets inside the site. Those streets will be at least 24 feet wide and have sidewalks on both sides.

Several speakers sought to save the tennis club, which was built in 1972 and expanded in 1994.

Fred Ricci, a 50-year county resident, said supervisors needed to protect the county’s environment and traditions.

“No more construction,” he said. “I’m sick and tired of builders dictating what we should and should not do. If Sekas wants to build these houses, build them somewhere else. Leave the tennis courts alone.”

Susheel Jain, who plays tennis at the facility, said the developer’s proposal was “grossly deficient” in several areas, especially transportation-demand management.

Another critic, Loren Haag, said the tennis facility’s patrons support local businesses.

“The over-arching obligation of planning-and-zoning processes is to channel and facilitate development to best meet the needs of the community at-large,” Haag said. “The owner does not have an inherent right to a development that neither meets the requirements of the master plan nor furthers the highest and best interests for the property.”

Michael Grace of the Four Seasons Tennis Club Preservation Task Force made a pointed appeal.

“Right here, right now, we stand at a critical fork in the road,” he said. “Will Fairfax County intercede to save a unique, vital facility that benefits thousands of individuals, most of whom reside in Fairfax County, or will the county let Four Seasons get bulldozed to provide residences for all of 316 individuals, adjacent to a post office and its parking lot?”

About 15,000 people use Four Seasons at least once per year, Grace said. The facility receives $2 million per year in revenue and provides 41 recurring jobs, including 28 full-time positions. About 4,700 youths take part annually in the facility’s tennis academy and 200 collegiate scholarships have been generated, he added.

Opponents tried for two years to save the tennis club, Grace said. 

“What we are asking is for Fairfax County to intercede to correct what we see as an imbalance between private-property rights and the citizens’ health and welfare,” he said. “We would like the county to match Mr. Sekas’ offer for this property and acquire, update and expand Four Seasons into a multi-use recreational facility, including tennis.”

In lieu of that, Grace asked that  if supervisors approved the application, they should specifically earmark the developer’s financial contributions for new tennis facilities in the area. The group also asked supervisors to direct the county’s Park Authority to plan for an indoor-tennis facility to replicate and replace Four Seasons.

Supervisors said the county needs more indoor-tennis facilities and would consider using the Four Seasons’ court-covering “bubble” over tennis courts at a school or park.

But purchasing the tennis club would be prohibitively expensive and necessitate installing a new roof and handicapped-accessible features required of public facilities, said acting County Executive Kirk Kincannon, who is on temporary assignment from his job as Park Authority director.

The county provides about 250 tennis courts, not including all the ones on school properties, said Andrea Dorlester, manager of park planning at the Park Authority.

Supervisor Penelope Gross (D-Mason) said the Mosaic District’s plan is being realized and Sekas Homes’ development will be one of the last pieces of the puzzle.

“Housing is one of our great deficiencies, not only in Fairfax County but in the entire region,” she said, citing figures that the region needs about 93,000 more housing units. “I think this type of housing being proposed here will fill some of that void.”

Patrons of tennis club lose bid to prevent redevelopment – Inside NoVA

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