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McLean apartment building’s plan to convert retail into housing raises sewer backup concerns

The Ashby at McLean (via Google Maps)

The Ashby at McLean apartment building is one step closer to converting most of its commercial space into additional residential units.

The Fairfax County Planning Commission recommended on Wednesday (Feb. 2) that the Board of Supervisors allow the downtown luxury building to add up to 18 apartments, bringing it up to 274 residential units.

Property owner WashREIT’s project would repurpose nearly 24,000 square feet of commercial space in the building at 1350 Beverly Road. At least 8% of the new units will be affordable.

The proposal initially drew concerns from county wastewater staff that the added units could strain a sewage pipe, adversely affecting other residents in the area, said Planning Commission Vice Chair John Ulfelder, who represents the Dranesville District.

“They were concerned that the addition of even just 18 residential units to this section of sewer could…start to cause backups,” he said.

The sewer pipe at issue is 192 feet long and 8 inches in diameter, feeding into a larger line. According to Ulfelder, wastewater staff determined that an end section, located about one-third of a mile away from The Ashby, was “at its limit.”

At first, a 12-inch-wide pipe was proposed to address concerns, but county staff and WashREIT later decided that a 15-inch pipe could be used instead. The company agreed to a proffer in which it would pay for the upgrades but could then impose surcharges on its apartment units.

WashREIT first sought to convert The Ashby’s commercial space into housing a decade ago, but the project stalled and was later put on hold, as Fairfax County revised its plan for McLean’s Community Business Center.

The resulting Comprehensive Plan amendment was approved in June, allowing increased density in the 230-acre downtown area. The county is now inviting the public to weigh in on design guidelines for future development.

The Ashby project will now go before the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors for a public hearing and final approval today (Tuesday).

Photo via Google Maps

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