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Vienna approves cottage housing development on Courthouse Road

The site where a 12-unit housing development is planned on Courthouse Road (via Town of Vienna)

The Vienna Town Council approved a project on Monday (Sept. 13) to develop a vacant property with cottage housing-style duplexes.

Developer JDA Custom Homes is looking to construct six two-family dwellings at a 1.38-acre site at 117-121 Courthouse Road SW, where each unit would have a two-car parking garage at the basement level and belong to a homeowners’ association.

JDA Vice President Jordan Rice described the outside of the homes by saying they will use low-cost materials aimed at people looking to downsize their living space.

Her father, Dennis Rice, the company’s founder, said each home will have approximately 1,200 square feet on the main level and about 600 square feet on the second floor.

He declined to say what the price of each home or range would be when asked by Councilmember Nisha Patel at the public hearing.

“Do you foresee each unit being at least under $1 million?” she said.

“At this time, I cannot make any…statement on that,” Dennis Rice said, citing rising building material costs and adding that he couldn’t make a guess at this point.

Patel said she likes the project, which will provide an alternative to the single-family, standalone houses that dominate the Town of Vienna, but she noted that the majority of homes in the town are under $1 million.

Councilmember Chuck Anderson asked if two units could be reduced in size to make them more affordable. Dennis Rice replied that the units “really don’t become sellable” if they’re any smaller.

The town council first voted 5-0 to approve rezoning the lots from a single-family residential district to a multi-family, low-density area. Patel and Councilmember Ray Brill abstained from the vote.

After the rezoning was approved, JDA proposed changes to several development requirements, including one aimed at reducing the footprint of constructed buildings and amenities. The zoning area there limits lot coverage to 25% at most for anything from buildings, parking spots, and athletic courts to patios and terraces.

The developer asked for an allowance up to 60% but believes it can achieve the development with 55.3% lot coverage, the town said. The gap leaves room for flexibility, according to the developer.

Changes to rear and front setbacks as well as other lot requirements were also requested.

As part of its application, JDA noted that 13 other developments in the town had lot coverages ranging from 33.9% (Park Terrace Condo section two at 212-218 Locust St. SE) to 66.6% (Vienna Villager at 200 Locust St. NE).

Brill expressed concern that the town council is getting ahead of itself in trying to change Vienna’s housing stock, giving developers more influence than individual homeowners. He added that the town might want to finish its ongoing zoning code rewrite first.

Councilmember Ed Somers said the opportunity could evaporate and the developer didn’t have to go this route.

Patel also raised a concern about the front yard setback, in which the applicant requested the town allow two homes 23 feet from a sidewalk and a one-story clubhouse 20 feet away from the pedestrian route. The required setback there is 35 feet.

However, the town council ultimately approved the site modifications 6-0 with Patel abstaining.

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