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Planning commission unanimously passes McLean downtown plan after further tweaks

The Fairfax County Planning Commission gave the green light yesterday (Wednesday) to a once-more revised version of a plan to revitalize downtown McLean.

“This amended plan is an important and hopefully major change for the future revitalization of the aging and somewhat dated downtown McLean business and shopping area,” Dranesville District Commissioner John Ulfelder said.

Their unanimous vote came after commissioners made some last-minute changes to the plan in response to nearly two dozen people who aired their criticisms, both general and targeted, during a public hearing last month.

The changes incorporate some of that feedback, specifically on parking and building heights. One change responds to commissioners, who had some concerns regarding a mechanism to review the plan’s progress in 10 years or when 1,660 residential units have been built — whichever comes first.

Commissioners struck a section recommending changes to parking as well as a proposal to close the intersection of Center Street and Old Dominion Drive, which will remain open until a rezoning application is filed and reviewed.

They also clarified a section on building heights surrounding Franklin Sherman Elementary School and McLean Baptist Church such that the buildings abutting them cannot be more than 40 feet tall.

Finally, they recommend only triggering the review once 1,660 residential units have been developed, rather than after 10 years, which Ulfelder described as “an arbitrary time limit.” The revised McLean Community Business Center plan goes into greater detail about what the review could look like and the opportunities for community input ahead of any decision about adding more residences.

Will it be enough to attract developers?

“The proof of the pudding is in the eating,” Ulfelder said.

The commission unanimously supported a follow-on motion directing the county to run a pilot project aimed at making McLean more pedestrian and bicycle-friendly with streets designed to slow down traffic.

“The pilot could include techniques like narrower vehicle lanes, the addition of on-street parking, time-of-day parking, and interim changes to road configurations,” Ulfelder said.

He suggested that the pilot’s scope encompass the area along Old Dominion Drive from Beverley Road to Corner Lane and along Chain Bridge Road from Old Chain Bridge Road to the Tennyson Drive and Ingleside intersections.

His recommendations include some ideas that were struck from the CBC plan’s parking management section.

Ultimately, Ulfelder said the current comprehensive plan has “proved to be too inflexible and unwieldy for landowners and potential developers,” while the proposed plan takes a “new approach that supports change and development while maintaining aspects of the CBC that the residents of McLean love and value.”

He thanked county staff for their work on weekends and after business hours to talk with residents, attend meetings, and continuously revise the plan.

“I think people don’t understand the commitment and sacrifice staff makes on these efforts,” he said.

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