(Updated at 5 p.m.) The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors has approved new zoning rules to try and make building elderly care facilities easier.
At its Dec. 4 meeting, the board approved a new zoning district and land use category for continuing care facilities.
The change creates a special set of zoning requirements for retirement communities and nursing facilities. Such facilities frequently combine residential and medical care operations, which were previously not allowed under Fairfax zoning code.
The McLean Citizens Association (MCA) expressed support for the new zoning regulations, but also noted that there were concerns that the new proposals could create development incompatible with low density residential neighborhoods.
We recognize the need for more senior housing and related facilities in an aging county, but also insist on rules that reasonably protect the character of low-density residential neighborhoods,” MCA said in a press release press release.
The MCA resolution called for limits on waivers granted to projects with regards to issues like open space and sufficient parking.
The MCA wasn’t alone in its concerns about the added density. The zoning ordinance includes a maximum building height of 75 to 100 feet tall. Clyde Miller, President of the Holmes Run Valley Citizens Association, spoke at the Board of Supervisors meeting to express concern that the density bonuses granted to for-profit senior living facilities were originally intended to be used by nonprofits.
“The proposal jeopardizes single family residential districts with crowding, overall buildings, bulk and congestion,” said Miller. “Proposed density bonuses should be eliminated.”
Continuing care for elderly residents is an issue of particular importance to McLean, where 30 percent of the population is age 55 or older. McLean’s older population is disproportionately large compared to the rest of Fairfax County, where the median age is under 40.
The county has made some progress in providing senior living recently. In October, new affordable senior living complex The Fallstead opened in McLean after a decade of planning and funding challenges.
But McLean also has a history of struggling with the scale of elderly care facilities. In 2017, the Board of Supervisors rejected a proposal by Sunrise Senior Living to build a 73-room facility on a 3.79 acre lot in McLean after three years of arguments from local citizens that the facility would add to local traffic in an area already overburdened by schools, houses or worship and other senior centers.
At the Board of Supervisors meeting, McLean District Supervisor John Foust praised the MCA resolution and said he shared their concerns about waivers for parking.
“I ran some numbers, and it looks like it can work so I’m comfortable enough to vote for this,” said Foust, “but I understand we’re taking another look at all of this as part of a parking zoning ordinance amendment. This will be reviewed and we will look in great detail at this.”
Foust also noted that, depending on public transportation access, the Board of Supervisors can require additional parking for developments.
The Board of Supervisors unanimously approved the zoning change.
The iPhone maker will be investing $1 billion in a new, expanded campus in Austin, Texas, while opening new offices in Seattle, San Diego and the Los Angeles area, and expanding existing offices in Pittsburgh, New York and Boulder, Colorado.
Absent from the announcement: any expansion into Fairfax County.
It is unclear how much the selection of Arlington for half of Amazon’s “HQ2,” and the demand for technical talent in the area that will bring, might have affected Apple’s decision. It’s also unclear whether the expanded offices in New York and Pittsburgh constitute the “large East Coast outpost” the company was reportedly considering, or if such an office is still in play given that the company is leaving the door open “for additional expansion elsewhere in the U.S. over time.”
Apple was seriously considering Fairfax County sites in Tysons at the Center for Innovative Technology campus on the Fairfax/Loudoun border. Apple was said to also be seriously considering sites in North Carolina, and the announcement left state leaders there scrambling to explain why they had been passed over.
Apple’s primary Tysons presence remains the Apple Store in Tysons Corner Center mall. Other Northern Virginia Apple stores are located in Reston, Fair Oaks, and Arlington’s Clarendon and Pentagon City neighborhoods.
NBC 4 Reports on Jones Branch Connector — “A brand new bridge is about to open above the Beltway in Tysons. But, it symbolizes more than just a bridge — it’s part of a larger plan to ‘knit’ Tysons together. [Twitter]
Final Week for Claude Moore Farm — “Absent a last-minute reprieve — a short extension of the management agreement to permit re-introduction of bills in the new Congress — The Farm will be closed and NPS will allow a reasonable period for the nonprofit to remove all structures and other property from the premises. ” [Connection Newspapers]
Burglary in McLean — “Officers responded for the report of an open door. They found someone broke into the home and ransacked the residence.” [FCPD]
Ribbon Cutting for new Capital One HQ — “Dignitaries, including Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe and Fairfax County Board Supervisor Sharon Bulova attended a Thursday afternoon ribbon-cutting and ceremony to mark the official grand opening of Capital One Headquarters II, the Washington area’s tallest occupied office building.” [WTOP]
Flickr pool photo by Bigbirdz
(Updated at 11 a.m.) Enjoy the free street parking in Tysons while it lasts, because its days may be numbered.
At a Fairfax County Transportation Committee meeting on Tuesday, the Fairfax County Department of Transportation (FCDOT) discussed plans to hire a professional parking consultant to explore parking management in Tysons and nearby Reston.
“The intent is to pilot parking management in these areas and expand to other areas as appropriate,” said Henri Stein McCartney, a transportation planner with FCDOT
McCartney said the goal of the study is to determine whether to implement on-street parking restrictions in Tysons and if so, what form those restrictions will take.
“The goal is timely turnover of spaces to encourage space availability,” said McCartney. “Numerous studies show motorists will circle [the] block searching for free on-street parking. [Parking restrictions] reduce number of cars searching for on-street parking. If paid for parking implemented, revenues could enforce parking rules.”
The study would also look at whether to implement paid parking or time restricted parking. Paid parking could take the form of a mobile kiosk or an app, like ParkMobile.
The second option would be time restricted parking, which could either be free or paid. However, McCartney said timed parking often requires more intensive enforcement efforts, with officers needed to monitor timed parking zones.
McCartney said FCDOT had not yet determined how much revenue paid parking could generate in Tysons.
FCDOT staff said the first area of study will be Tysons. Both the county’s comprehensive plan and urban design guidelines call for some form of “managed parking on future grid streets” in Tysons. FCDOT is apparently eyeing the new streets constructed at Boro development as some of the first “managed streets” in Tysons.
Implementation of paid parking in areas like the Reston Town Center has been controversial, to say the least.
McCartney said the study will have to also make sure the parking restrictions don’t push cars into the neighborhoods surrounding Tysons.
“This is inevitable, but it’s something we need to walk into very carefully,” said Springfield District Supervisor Pat Herrity. “Parking fees drive behavior. We have the real life example of Reston when they implemented those fees and all the angst it created… and loss of revenue.”
Herrity emphasized that any study of paid parking will have to involve close communication with the business community.
“The mistakes made in the past can be a helpful learning process,” said Supervisor Cathy Hudgins.
Hudgins said one of the biggest lessons from the Reston Town Center parking fiasco that should be applied to Tysons is specifying the goals of parking management, like whether the paid parking is a way of raising revenue or managing transportation.
Even before the recommendations come in, the committee seemed supportive of some form of paid or timed parking restrictions. From Board of Supervisors Chair Sharon Bulova:
“Tysons is an urban area that is being developed. It’s important that we manage the parking. In most urban areas that is done. The last thing you want to happen would be people to park on the streets all day long as employees and then customers and people doing business in Tysons don’t have a place to park for a relatively short period of time. It is a complicated issue and we’re doing the right thing starting with a consulting study.”
The study will be measuring on-street and off-street parking supply and demand and model future demand based on approved development plans. In the end, it will recommend appropriate strategies and an implementation plan.
FCDOT staff said an update on the study will be given between six to nine months later, but the recommendations won’t be available for at least another year.
The estimated cost of parking study is $100,000.
Image via Fairfax County Department of Transportation
Building Near Spring Hill Metro Purchased — “Transwestern today announces it brokered the sale of Tysons Pond II, a 67,151-square-foot, free-standing office building located at 1604 Spring Hill Road in Tysons… A private investor purchased the 70 percent leased asset for $10 million.” [Citybizlist]
Nantucket Bay Scallops Season in Tysons — “Nantucket Bay scallops are in season and Eddie V’s of Tysons Corner has a special scallop dishes that are available for a limited time.” [WUSA 9]
Jerry Gordon Reflects on Retirement — “Jerry Gordon has two weeks left on his job as the president and CEO of the Fairfax County Economic Authority, and his office is so empty it echoes… After 31 years on the job, Gordon is transitioning out of a role that led Fairfax to become a superstar in economic development.” [Washington Business Journal]
More Silver Line Phase 2 Problems — “Hundreds of concrete rail ties installed at track crossovers along the second phase of the Silver Line are flawed, officials say, a problem that could further delay the multibillion-dollar rail project that is already 13 months behind schedule.” [Washington Post]
Fairfax County is currently mulling over changes to its sign ordinance that has schools, local realtors, and Tysons Corner Center concerned.
At a Planning Commission meeting last week, the commission deferred a decision on the new sign regulations until Jan. 16 to allow for more discussion on the impact of the ordinance.
Currently, county staff are reviewing changes to the zoning ordinance to make the language “content neutral.” The change is in response to the United States Supreme Court’s 2015 ruling in Reed vs. Town of Gilbert, which ruled that localities that define sign categories based on the message expressed, or content-based, is unconstitutional unless it furthers a compelling governmental interest.
Rather than allow free reign for Fairfax residents of businesses to erect signs regardless of content, a proposed amendment would tighten sign regulations across the board.
The proposed changes to the sign ordinance are wide-ranging but often minor corrections. One of the biggest changes is that one freestanding building identification sign is permitted for each detached building and such signs must be limited to identifying the name of the building or the individual enterprises located therein, the address, trademark or identifying symbol of the building occupant.
For instance, a real estate sign pointing to a nearby open house, but placed at the entrance to a subdivision, would be prohibited.
One of the proposed changes alters the definition of a sign from something “visible from the public right-of-way or adjoining property” to “visible from any street.” It’s a relatively small change, but any tampering with language in county ordinances could have a ripple effect. According to the staff documents, for instance, a representative of Tysons Corner Center expressed concerns about the impact of the change.
Tysons Corner Center currently has sign exemptions, allowing exceptions to current county rules, but these exemptions are based on the existing definitions of visibility from the public right-of-way or adjoining properties. As a result of these concerns, staff said new language was written into the proposed ordinance to allow greater flexibility.
According to county staff, minor signs — formerly referred to as temporary signs — were the largest challenge in the zoning ordinance rewrite.
“While staff acknowledges that the proposed language could negatively affect some developments that are currently exempt from regulation, we continue to recommend the language found in the draft text as it provides the closest level of regulation as the current provision.”
A representative from real estate investment company Macerich, which owns Tysons Corner Center, said at the meeting that the company had a laundry list of concerns but has been working with county staff to whittle those issues down. Another local realtor at the meeting said the new ordinance could push open house signs and corner signs off of local lawns and into already-crowded street medians.
The sign ordinance changes also sparked concern with the inclusion of language that would remove government exemptions from sign ordinances.
“Staff has received comments from both Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) and the Fairfax County Park Authority (FCPA), neither of which is in favor of eliminating the current exemption status. Of particular concern to the Park Authority is the limitation on the size, number and location of minor signs permitted for non-residential uses in a residential district. These signs are used to announce summer concert series, camps and other activities at the parks. The schools have raised concerns with the proposed height of permitted freestanding signs for non-residential uses in residential districts which is proposed to be limited to 8 feet in height.”
As a result, staff said at the Planning Commission meeting that there would be modifications to the ordinance allowing some exceptions for schools and parks.
Planning Commissioner Phillip Niedzielski-Eichner said at the meeting he was generally in favor of holding Fairfax County government to many of the same sign regulations as the public.
“There’s something to be said with us being able to model our behavior consistent with what we expect from the private sector,” said Niedzielski-Eichner. “There is a different benefit to be realized to the public with the park authority and public school [having] latitude with signs, but frankly I’m comfortable with them doing it within a regulatory context… not unfettered.”
Photo via Flickr/Alan Levine
I-66 Tolls Shifted Behavior, Did Not Improve Traffic — “The new high-occupancy toll lanes on one of the busiest highways in the Washington region have sparked dramatic shifts in commuter behavior, prompting motorists to alter their commute times and routes, data show, while yielding tolls as high as $47.50 — some of the highest per mile in the country.” [Washington Post]
‘Green’ Vienna Businesses Recognized — “Nine Vienna businesses who have successfully completed the Town’s 2018 Sustainability Challenge were recognized at last night’s Town Council meeting… Through the program, certified businesses tally points on a checklist of green practices that they undertake as part of day-to-day operations.” [FairfaxNews]
Local Restaurants Open On Christmas — Staying in town for the holidays and planning to dine out? Patch has compiled a list of McLean, Vienna and Tysons restaurants that are planning to remain open on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. [Patch, Patch]
Rough Night for Silver Line Commuters — Those heading home on the Silver Line last night faced delays, offloading and other issues during the evening commute due to a track problem outside of Foggy Bottom. [Twitter, Twitter]
The 85 students from four Fairfax and Falls Church public schools expected to graduate yesterday from the Capital One Coders program at the Capital One headquarters in Tysons East. What they weren’t expecting were free laptops given away by the company to each of the graduates.
The Capital One Coders program trains local middle school students after school for ten weeks. Students learn the basics of programming and eventually work up to developing their own mobile applications.
Part of the surprise at the graduation was gifting each student their own laptop and giving a $10,000 grant to the schools for STEM education. The kids went home with the laptops, but the grants will go to the schools at the end of the spring semester.
“The coders program started in 2014,” said Jay Sanne, Vice President of Software Engineering for Capital One. “It is deployed in each of our major people centers. It’s had a great response from schools and associates.”
Sanne said the coders program is part of a commitment to building a 21st century workforce with technology skills.
Typically students develop games, although Sanne said the applications students build are often pretty sophisticated. Sanne noted there was one student early in the program who developed a mobile application to automate her family’s chicken coop so she wouldn’t have to leave the house to open up the coop and let the chickens out.
“It’s amazing to see them going from week one to week ten, where they’re demoing real mobile apps,” said Sanne. “We see the excitement in the kids as we’re teaching the program.”
At the graduation, the students at the Capital One Coders program also demonstrated their apps for parents and loved ones in attendance. Different prizes were awarded, like most creative or most technical.
Longstanding tensions over improvements to Louise Archer Elementary School in Vienna escalated to a proposal to deny Fairfax Schools continued use of trailers and fine the school system for violations as long as they’re still in use.
While the proposal wasn’t supported by the rest of the Council, its creator, Councilmember Pasha Majdi, expressed frustrations echoed by others.
“This is a bad joke and nobody’s laughing,” said Majdi. “I graduated from Louise Archer and went to class in trailers. My son starts elementary school [there] in nine months. My recommendation to the town is that we rename this provision from temporary trailers to generation trailers.”
One trailer was removed earlier this year as it began to deteriorate, according to the staff report. Students were relocated to two additional trailers, which are 17 and 19 years old and have a maximum lifespan of 25-30 years.
Staff from Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) said the school’s renovation would be unlikely to be completed before 2023, and even that is reliant on construction money being approved in a referendum for 2021. An addition onto the school is planned for 2025.
“It’s an embarrassment that the school system can’t get their act together and move quicker on this,” said Councilmember Howard Springsteen. “It’s been 20 years we’ve been promising this… I give you guys an F for the ability to manage these projects.”
Springsteen said he didn’t have a lot of faith that the school system would be able to deliver that addition by 2025.
FCPS also faced criticism for coming to the Town Council for re-approval of the trailers four months after the approval had expired.
“You need to get here before the application expires,” said Councilmember Douglas Noble. “The clock was for August 22, not today. They need to be here with an application in July 2 two years from now.”
Despite these concerns, the Town Council didn’t go along with Majdi’s proposal to deny the trailers continued use renewal. Councilmember Tara Bloch said while she was frustrated by the trailer situation, pushing students out of the trailers and back into the already overcrowded school would hurt students.
The council voted 6-1 in favor of allowing continued use of the trailers.
Photo via Google Maps
New residential buildings are coming to The Boro, but a new partnership with WhyHotel means many of them might temporarily be hotel-style rentals before they’re leased.
WhyHotel is a startup based in D.C. that takes unrented units from recently-built apartments, from studios to two-bedroom units, and rents them out as hotel spaces and pay some of the rent back to the developer. Meanwhile, on-call staff handle the cleaning and other guests needs.
In addition to new WhyHotel locations planned in Arlington, the company announced Monday that it will partner with The Meridian Group and Kettler to operate a “pop up” hotel in The Boro (8395 Greensboro Drive). Up to 150 residential units will be used as WhyHotel rentals. Guests will be able to stay in the units starting late summer or early fall next year.
The new WhyHotel spaces will be located in Rise, a 27-story luxury high-rise apartment building scheduled to open sometime in 2019.
Image via The Meridian Group