Falcons Landing’s Big Plans Approved

A one-of-a-kind retirement community in Cascades has won permission to knock over some its existing cottages to make room for more modern apartments and a dementia care facility after settling some residents’ worries they would be forced out of their homes.

Falcons Landing is a nonprofit retirement community open only to military veterans and senior federal civilian employees. The residents sign lifetime contracts, guaranteeing care and a place to live—along with healthcare, a meal plan, housekeeping, maintenance, and special activities, among other benefits—as retirees graduate from independent to assisted living.

The Air Force Retired Officers Community board, which runs Falcons Landing, says it needs to upgrade to stay competitive, with new apartments that meet the demands of retiring baby boomers and a memory care facility for residents struggling with conditions like Alzheimer’s. Falcons Landing has plans to knock over some of the existing cottages to make room for new apartment buildings and the memory care facility—which had some residents worried they would be forced out of their homes.

Falcons Landing residents do not actually own the homes they live in, instead being tied to them by contract.

The Falcons Landing board has reassured those residents that their contracts, which in most cases guarantee a specific address, will be honored and that they can remain in their homes as long as they wish.

During a county Planning Commission in March hearing saw a packed meeting room, with a long list of residents speaking out both for and against the community’s plans. However, Board of Supervisors public hearing on the same application Wednesday night saw strong support—some by residents with spouses in need of memory care—and little opposition.

“Falcons Landing is not another development, or just another community,” resident David Belden said. “Falcons Landing is a family. Not in a blood sense of family, but in a larger sense of shared experiences and activities. However, we’re just like every other family: we don’t agree on much of anything,” he added, to laughter.

“The key measure of a community’s viability is occupancy, but we can’t wait until that shows a dramatic drop,” said Falcons Landing board Chairman William Timme. He said if the community waits until occupancy goes down to update its homes, it might not have the financial backing to do, leading to a death spiral for the facility.

County supervisors said they can’t get involved with where specific residents will live—it’s strictly a land use policy decision.

“It is very inappropriate for the board in any manner to exert itself in the middle of a private contract between two individuals,” said board Vice Chairman Ralph M. Buona (R-Ashburn). “And I personally have experience with this.” He pointed out a decision on the previous Board of Supervisors which led to both he and then-supervisor Shawn Williams being personally sued, unsuccessfully, by broadband provider OpenBand. The lawsuit alleged Williams and Buona crossed a line by trying to help negotiate a compromise between OpenBand and two homeowners’ associations.

Still, Jim and Nancy Haynes, who had raised their concerns to the Planning Commission, have their reservations. Nancy Haynes said she had received a letter reassuring her she would not be forced out of her home. In the same letter, however, it was written that without revenues from the two new apartment buildings—one of which would stand where her cottage is now—the community would not be able to afford the memory care facility without raising fees.

“How will the potential last man standing feel in the face of the community’s reaction to the proposition that the memory home cannot be constructed without the revenue of the terrace apartments in the footprints of the cottages?” she said.

Falcons Landing’s application was passed 8-0-1, Supervisor Kristen C. Umstattd (D-Leesburg) absent.

rgreene@loudounnow.com
@RenssGreene

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