The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved amending the West Falls Church Transit Area Plan on Tuesday (July 13) to clear the road for future development near the Metro station.
The amendment opens up much of the nearby area to mixed-use development, with the aim of creating a residential and retail hub similar to the Mosaic District, but the approval came with some caveats from the county planning commission, and skepticism from some in the public.
Throughout the process, residents in nearby neighborhoods have shared concerns that the new developments will put more traffic onto nearby streets not build to withstand the pressure, particularly putting pedestrians in jeopardy even with some pedestrian improvements planned for the site.
The planning commission made some adjustments to the proposed amendment in recognition of these concerns, such as adding text saying that “connections should be provided within the site and to the existing pedestrian network surrounding the site, with an emphasis on pedestrian safety, accessibility, and comfort.”
At Tuesday’s public hearing, resident Adrienne Whyte said the amendment will allow developers to turn the site into a “gateway to gridlock” and that the suburban character of the nearby streets don’t support the kind of road network envisioned in the site plans.
“What other station depends on a two-lane country road for egress?” Whyte asked.
The project got some support from residents and various advocates, including Sonya Breehey, Northern Virginia coalition manager for the Coalition for Smarter Growth — an organization that Breehey acknowledged is partially funded by project developer EYA.
“The county must prioritize the redesign of its streets to make them safer for people walking and biking,” Breehey said. “Nearby streets need to be redesigned with bike lanes and safer crosswalks.”
Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust, who represents the area, celebrated the approval, but he acknowledged the ongoing community concerns and said he would support improvements down-the-road to nearby streets.
“Our work is not done,” Foust said. “Clearly there is concern…by neighborhoods that have challenges today. With or without this application, we need to address them.”
Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay said the project was adequately vetted and the area is appropriate for the planned development, but agreed with Foust that the nearby transportation problems can’t be ignored.
“Clearly, near a Metro station like this is where you want to see this type of growth,” McKay said. “That being said, residents have good reason to be concerned. We’ve got work left here to do.”
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