Plan to redevelop West Falls Church Metro wins planning commission’s support

A proposed multi-family residential building in the West Falls Church Metro station redevelopment (via Fairfax County)

The redevelopment of the West Falls Church Metro station secured the Fairfax County Planning Commission’s endorsement last week, a critical step forward for a project that could serve as a guide for other transit-oriented developments in the D.C. region.

The commission voted unanimously on Wednesday (March 15) to recommend that the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approve a rezoning of the 24-acre property to allow over 1 million square feet of development, including 810 multifamily residential units, 85 townhouses, a 110,000-square-foot office building and up to 10,000 square feet of retail.

As seen at a public hearing in February, the proposal from developers EYA, Rushmark Properties, and Hoffman & Associates (FGCP-Metro LLC) has divided the community. Some hope the new housing and infrastructure will energize the neighborhood, while others worry it will fuel traffic and parking issues.

“It’s going to be a big change, and that’s difficult for some people, but I think it’s going to be a positive change in the long run,” Dranesville District Planning Commissioner John Ulfelder said. “We’re going to have to break a few eggs on the way to get there, but I think, in the long run, it’s going to be great for the neighborhoods, for the people who’ll be living there, and for the county.”

The commission’s vote followed weeks of negotiations involving the developers, the county, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) and neighboring residents, primarily over an existing stormwater pond on the site.

Expected to be retained with the redevelopment, the pond manages stormwater runoff from Metro’s facilities and the Village and Pavillion condominiums southeast of the station along Haycock Road.

The agreement between WMATA and the condo associations granting residents access to the pond is set to expire in 2026. Condo representatives asked the planning commission last month not to approve the redevelopment until they get a permanent extension of the easement.

While Ulfelder said then that he couldn’t delay the rezoning for “really an off-site issue,” FGCP-Metro LLC has agreed that its development won’t use the pond for stormwater detention and to “reserve sufficient detention capacity” for stormwater from Metro’s facilities and the condos, according to a draft proffer agreement updated on March 13.

Walsh Colucci lawyer Andrew Painter, who is representing the developers, confirmed that the proffer essentially guarantees that the condos will have perpetual access to the pond.

“It is very close,” Painter said regarding WMATA extending the stormwater agreement. “…We received an email earlier this evening…from counsel for the Villages and Pavillions saying that we are very close and they’re confident they will be able to resolve this issue shortly.”

Ulfelder acknowledged the lingering anxiety from some neighbors over the developers proposing 40% fewer parking spaces on the site than what the county requires, but he noted that the parking reduction request will be voted on by the Board of Supervisors separately from the overall development plan.

If the request is rejected, the developers must provide parking in accordance with the county’s zoning requirements, which could soon be lowered.

Metro’s board of directors is scheduled to vote on a plan for reducing parking and other transit facilities at the station this Thursday (March 23).

Ulfelder thanked the developers for working with county staff and the community on their application, which he said was made “better, stronger and more fitting” by the public input. A county-led study of potential pedestrian and bicycle improvements in the area, for instance, led FGCP-Metro LLC to agree to build a shared-use trail on Haycock Road.

“I believe it is an excellent example of how the county can and should address large and complex applications, while making sure they are consistent with the county’s long-range plans for development and redevelopment,” Ulfelder said. “We don’t need to fall into the trap of development for development’s sake to make progress on long-term county goals.”

The proposal is now set to go to the Board of Supervisors for a public hearing and vote on May 9.

Read more on FFXnow…

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