Hotel development underway along Richmond Highway

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Land was cleared over the last few months, and construction will begin this summer for the Marriott Springhill Suites hotel in the Belle Haven area of Alexandria, providing 90 additional rooms in an expanding commercial area.

The property is owned by Old Town Holdings, LLC and the hotel is being constructed by Baywood Hotels, whose main office is in Greenbelt, Md. Features of the new facility include meeting and banquet space for 150 people, a fully equipped business center, gift shop and a heated indoor pool and fitness center. The property is next to The Virginia Lodge, Red Roof Inn, The Sleep Inn and across Richmond Highway from the Days Inn and Belle Haven Towers.

To the east, the property edges Belle Haven Park, a 16.2 acre wooded park that was once part of the defenses of Washington in the Colonial days. Quander Brook runs through the park, and residents of Belle Haven are watching out for the stream, the park and the last stretch of woods that separates their neighborhood and the lights and traffic of Richmond Highway. A big parking lot that accompanies hotel developments will increase the runoff that flows into the stream and eventually the Potomac River.

In the spring of 2005, residents and homeowners in Belle Haven met on the development proposal with area politicians, including Virginia Delegate Kristen Amundson and Mount Vernon Supervisor Gerry Hyland (D) as well as representatives of the Fairfax County Park Authority, planning and zoning, and public works and environmental services to examine the issue. Although Hylands office acknowledged his lack of support for the project, he did state the by-right development situation for the land. I do not have the authority to prevent a by right development, Hyland wrote in a letter to the Belle Haven community, dated April 8, 2005.

Frank Chrzanowski, president of the Belle Haven Citizens Association, has been monitoring the project for years and questions the Fairfax County Comprehensive Plan, which calls for residential zoning for that area. What theyre doing is really not keeping with what Fairfax County intended to do, he said, although Hyland states that the site is zoned as C-8 and the Zoning Ordinance states a hotel or motel is a permitted use.

In the past, the construction company was questioned for issues about rainwater runoff from the construction, and work continuing into the night but these issues were resolved,  Chrzanowski said, some with the help from Hylands office. Their office has been supportive on the most part, he added.

Belle Haven resident Bill Schworer also had problems with the Fairfax County comprehensive plan. The county elected to not comply with their plan, he said.

Hyland still does not think its the optimum development for this site, but noted the by-right development status. As far as the Fairfax County environmental rules, we have gone through with staff to insist that they have met the applicable regulations, Hyland said.

Hyland did say that the whole Richmond Highway area in Fairfax County is being treated as a revitalization area.

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