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New agreement with Dominion clears up confusion around financing new Tysons street and electric grids

Inch by inch, memo by memo, plans for Tysons’ street grid are coming together.

A new memorandum of understanding (MOU) approved at the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors meeting on Tuesday (May 18) could help clear one hurdle that’s been a thorn in the side of infrastructure plans.

As a follow-up to the June 2010 Tysons Corner Comprehensive Plan, Dominion Energy is entering an MOU with Fairfax County that will streamline a complicated part of the development process for new projects.

According to the staff report, Fairfax County has had a memorandum of agreement with the Virginia Department of Transportation since 2011 that commits VDOT to including all streets in the Tysons grid in its maintenance program.

At the same time, Dominion Energy has been working to update its electric distribution infrastructure in Tysons, a process that has been happening in conjunction with the arrival of new development.

“Developers agree to install new distribution duct banks and related equipment connecting to their proposed buildings, consistent with Dominion’s updated infrastructure,” county staff said in a report. “The facilities run parallel to existing streets, streets with modified cross-sections, or newly built streets, typically underneath sidewalk areas or parking lanes.”

Differences between VDOT’s conditions for its street maintenance program and requirements imposed by Dominion Energy for the installation of new distribution facilities has created some uncertainty for developers, the staff report says:

VDOT will not accept new streetscape areas that include easements, and Dominion requires easements where distribution ductbanks and related equipment are installed outside of vehicular lanes. Dominion is not a signatory to the 2011 MOA. Thus, there is uncertainty for developers about Dominion permitting their installations and VDOT accepting the streetscape areas above those installations for maintenance.

The newly approved MOU is intended to alleviate some of that uncertainty over where developers can and can’t build new streetscapes without stepping on the tangled web of local easements.

Under the MOU, Fairfax County will pay for future relocations of electric distribution ductbanks and related equipment that are needed by the county or VDOT, while Dominion will cover any relocations that it needs. Private developers will still pay for new ductbanks and relocations necessitated by their projects.

“This arrangement prevents Dominion from requiring easements in streetscape areas intended as county right-of-way, thereby ensuring ultimate acceptance by VDOT into its secondary street system, pursuant to the 2011 MOA,” county staff explained in its report.

VDOT has not officially signed the MOU, but the agency has endorsed it and committed to continuing to honor the 2011 agreement with Fairfax County, according to county staff.

The board of supervisors unanimously approved the motion, but at the meeting, Providence District Supervisor Dalia Palchik said there have been frustrations with Dominion failing to meet its timelines and obligations.

“One of the ways that we make sure we’re managing cost going through this is proper planning,” Fairfax County Director of Land Development Services Bill Hicks said. “We’re working close, hand in hand, with VDOT and their long-running plans and Dominion Energy with their long-range plans.”

William Marsh, Tysons coordinator for Land Development Services, said the MOU will hopefully help to streamline permitting.

“Developers will continue to pay for development in Tysons, but [we] want to provide them permitting efficiency,” Marsh said.

Photo via Dominion Energy/Facebook

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